I keep waiting to hear something from one of the proponents of free market for education.
After all-- no other part of the trained labor market works like this. If a hospital can't find enough doctors to fill its staff, nobody says, "Well, okay-- let's just let anyone with a college degree work in the operating room."
If you're looking for someone to rebuild your porch, but you only want to pay $1.50, you'll have trouble finding anyone to hire. The first solution that will enter your mind would not be, "Well, I'll just hire some fourth graders instead of experienced construction guys."
If you can't find someone who is willing to babysit your kids, you and your fellow parental unit don't sit down and say, "Well, our problem is that we're defining 'babysitter' too narrowly. Who says it have to be a human? Who says we couldn't just leave our two-year-old at home with the dog? Sure-- the DOG can be our babysitter."
No, as any free marketeer can tell you, if someone will not sell something to you under certain conditions, whether we're talking about buying labor or a toaster, you must offer better conditions. If nobody will sell you a Porsche for $2.99, that does not mean there is an auto shortage.
But in Utah, the state school board has just thrown up their hands and said, "Let's just get our spleens operated on by a twenty-one year old with a music degree."
Starting Monday, any warm body with any college degree-- and no additional training-- can be hired as a teacher.
"I don't view this as an attack on traditional teachers," Thomas said.
That's Dave Thomas, State School Board vice chairman, who ran as a "common sense conservative." Thomas's resume includes State Senator, but by profession, he is a Civil Deputy County Attorney. [Update: Also, he's apparently also a charter school operator-- see comments below] I am wondering how Thomas would feel if the court said, "We're having too much trouble finding actual attorneys to try cases, so we're going to start letting anyone with a college degree come in here and try cases? Training? Nah-- college degree should do it."
The board says it's not so bad because local districts can still set whatever job requirements they want. But let's think about this? Which districts will be able to recruit actual teachers by offering better conditions for employment, and which districts will be left even further behind in a talent bidding war? Which districts do you suppose will end up filling classrooms with unqualified faux teachers? Yes, this is a plan that will further shaft students and families of poorer communities.
And because it will drive teacher pay further down, and make working conditions worse (which actual experienced and trained teachers will really enjoy working in a hall with a constantly changing roster of not-ready-for-prime-time faux teachers?) It will destabilize schools-- look, we tried just the lightest version of this in PA with a system for letting anyone with a college degree become a substitute, and the turnover is huge because-- shocker-- a lot of civilians who haven't been in a school since they were eighteen nor spent any time studying or training about education--a lot of those people find actual school a lot harder and different from what they imagined.
And it is, absolutely, an attack on "traditional" (aka "actual") teachers. Utahns may feel some desperation about the teacher shortage, but telling the teachers you've got, "Yeah, we're not going to get you real colleagues, because you're probably not all that special anyway. We don't really take you seriously. Now don't you feel like a sucker for spending time and money on a teaching degree? Oh, and if you don't like it-- we can replace you really, really easily"-- that's going to feel a lot like an attack.
Utah will reap the same reward you get when you need surgery and instead some amateur slaps some duct tape on your injury-- you've made matters worse, not better, because you've used a fake solution and you haven't addressed your problem.
If Utah can't find enough teachers, the question to ask is not "Well, can we just redefine 'teacher' and lower the standards?" The question to ask is, "Why don't people want to take teaching jobs in our state?" And then address your actual problems. Because, despite the state motto, if I were a Utah teacher, I would not be feeling all that elevated.