The Virginia Department of Education’s offices in the James Monroe Building in Richmond. The agency has recently launched new initiatives aimed at teacher recruitment and retention with the help of federal aid money. (Parker Michels-Boyce/ For the Virginia Mercury)
The Virginia Board of Education voted unanimously during a Thursday emergency meeting to extend to June 30, 2024 the expiration date for teacher and other educator licenses that must be regularly renewed.
The original deadline was next month.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons urged the board to consider extending the expiration date, saying systemic processing challenges within the Office of Teacher Education and Licensure mean the department cannot process renewal requests in a timely manner.
The office is facing 2,000 pending requests for evaluations for an initial license. Meanwhile, more than 20,000 active licenses are set to expire June 30. Of those, 15,500 are renewable licenses, which can be held by superintendents, managers and administrators, and teachers in K-12, college and technical schools.
The board’s decision to extend the deadline comes as Virginia faces shortages of public school teachers that have been linked to factors such as pay and increased workload.
At the same time, Virginia has been relying more heavily on provisionally licensed teachers to meet the demand for educators.
“We know that we need high-quality licensed teachers in every single classroom, and that has been my first initiative as superintendent,” said Coons. “This is one area that allows us to continue to focus on that work and ensure that we are elevating teachers and that we are looking at ways to put more teachers and high-quality licensed teachers in classrooms.”
Virginia handed out 8,434 provisional licenses in 2021-22 compared to an average of 6,787 in the years before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a November report from Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.
Coons said she will be providing the board with a more long-term plan to overhaul the licensure office in the future. Her short-term plan includes hiring additional full-time and part-time employees for the licensure team, restructuring the office and coordinating with other state agencies to identify process challenges.
Board members said they appreciated how quickly the department moved to address the processing backlog.
“It is particularly gratifying to have an item of this importance acted upon this quickly,” said President Daniel Gecker, an appointee of former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Board member Dale Sturdifen, an appointee of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, added that Coons is “definitely on a mission to get the things done in the commonwealth, and anything that we can do to get these licenses approved and push forward, I’m 100% behind.”
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