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States consider a contract that would help teachers stay certified across state lines

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A teacher wearing a mask and a summery dress clasps her hands as she speaks to her class. Children watch her from the round tables where the are seated.

A newly proposed compact would allow teachers in states that join get certified more easily in other member states. Jon Cherry/Getty Images

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Article I of the United States Constitution talks about a kind of agreement known as an interstate compact. Like the name suggests, these are contracts between states. One of the most well-known is around driver’s licenses: Get a license in one state, and you can use it in most others.

There are also interstate compacts for individual professions — most recently, teaching. At least 10 states are considering joining one that would make it easier for teachers licensed in one state to work in another.

Mark Laurrie, superintendent of the Niagara Falls City School District in western New York, would love to do more hiring of experienced teachers from out of state.

But “there are people who say, ‘You know what, I don’t want to go through the whole process of having to see what I have to do in New York State,'” he said. “‘Do I have to pay another fee? Do I have to take another test?'”

This new teacher compact would let teachers in states that join get certified more easily in other member states. People moving between participating states wouldn’t have to dig up 20-year-old transcripts or pay hundreds of dollars in fees to be eligible for teaching jobs. 

“One of the things that’s true across all interstate compacts is they require some degree of trust,” said Adam Diersing, a policy analyst with the Council of State Governments, which works with states to develop these agreements. “A good teacher in Missouri is also going to be a good teacher in Washington.”

This compact was proposed by the Department of Defense because people in the military move a lot, and their spouses can have a hard time landing teaching jobs in new places. But it could have implications for all teachers.

“Teachers are far less likely to move across state lines than other professions,” said Chad Aldeman, the policy director at the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University.

This would be the first interstate occupational license compact not related to health care or mental health care. For example, a previous agreement has allowed nurses to move freely between dozens of states.

And this new one could help meet the demand for educators, said Diersing of the Council of State Governments.

“We do think that there’s a set of the teaching population that we’re losing every year pretty much across the country because of these barriers,” he said.

And schools, especially those on state borders, are missing out on talent because they can’t always easily hire people who live in the vicinity. 

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