INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s largest teachers union is attempting to stop a proposed teaching license that would allow college graduates with good grades and work experience to become classroom teachers.

The so-called career specialist permit is part of an update to the state’s licensing rules that the Indiana State Board of Education may take a final vote on next month.

The Indiana State Teachers Association held a press conference at the Indiana Statehouse this week asking the board to reconsider its decision to keep the proposal alive. Supporters say the license will provide flexibility to high school principals and superintendents when hiring new teachers.

Echoing the sentiments of those against the proposal, Mark Lichtenberg, the head of the Evansville Teachers Association, said on Friday the license “cheapens” the profession.

“To allow someone to simply pass a test and demonstrate knowledge of a particular content area in no way qualifies them to be teaching children in a classroom,” Lichtenberg said.

Even if passed, Lichtenberg said he doesn’t expect many teachers in Evansville classrooms to hold the career specialist permit because of the large pool of candidates for openings.

“It will depend largely on the situation that is present in each different area, in each school corporation,” Lichtenberg said.

“It’s hard to predict. There has to be high standards in order to be a teacher in a classroom, and this clearly lowers that standard.”

Candidates would need to hold a bachelor’s degree with a B-average in the content area they want to teach, pass a content test and have work experience in the subject they want to teach. The teacher also would need to begin training on instructional methods by the first month they enter a classroom.

The license would be limited to the secondary level and was inserted into the proposed licensing rules at a State Board of Education meeting this month. An earlier proposal with some of the same criteria, called an adjunct license, was voted down.

Tom Kopatich, superintendent of the Metropolitan School District of Mount Vernon, said the district is currently hiring some 15 to 18 teachers, and he’s always concerned with finding the best fit for an opening. He said because the district is in a rural setting, sometimes it’s hard to find teachers qualified in certain subject areas.

Kopatich said while he thinks the traditional education background for teachers is best, the state needs “to look at different ways to fill all of the requirements that we need.”

The Indiana State Teachers Association is working to reach out to education board members in hopes of changing minds, said Keith Gambill, an Evansville teacher and vice president of the state union. Gambill said while he doesn’t believe superintendents would be thrilled to hire people with a career specialist license, the process would serve as a “back door” into the profession. Gambill said college students could choose to major in a content area and use teaching as a fall back in the event they don’t get a job in their field.

“We run the risk of diminishing even more students going into education,” leaving superintendents whether if they want to or not having to consider applicants with the proposed license, Gambill said.

The career specialist license was one of the last pieces of the proposed licensing changes being considered by the State Board of Education. If given final approval by the board, the rules will then move to the Indiana Attorney General’s Office and Gov. Mike Pence for review.

At a meeting earlier this month, the state education board voted, 8-3, in support of the career specialist permit.

Board member Gordon Hendry said he supported the license to add to the diversity of the teaching profession.

“We have placed a number of restrictions and training requirements on those who seek career specialist licenses, and we have no reason to believe a large number of aspiring Hoosier educators will seek this license,” Hendry said in a prepared statement. “But I believe we should encourage more professionals to become teachers and share their life experience and knowledge with our young people.”

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