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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz voted against a teacher’s permit at the education board meeting.

Ed board OKs disputed teacher permit

The Indiana Board of Education on Wednesday passed a controversial new teaching permit and tweaked its board procedures.

The board met in Fort Wayne and a final vote was taken on the third iteration of the Rules for Education Preparation and Accountability, or REPA III.

The rules include a new “career specialist permit” that would allow college graduates with a B average in any subject to teach high school students after passing one content exam. In addition, these teacher hopefuls need professional experience in the subject they will teach and must begin a teacher-training program.

It passed 7-3.

Supporters say it allows professionals a new, less-cumbersome avenue to become a teacher.

Board member Andrea Neal said the permit is not intended to draw large numbers of people into teaching, but instead is for unique situations where a professional can bring their experience to the classroom.

But numerous Hoosiers have opposed the permit, including several who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting.

Phyllis Bush, of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education, said it is “a solution in search of a problem,” and noted there are other ways for professionals to transition into teaching.

And John O’Neal, of the Indiana State Teachers’ Association, said removing pedagogy requirements is wrong. Pedagogy is the method or practice of teaching.

“Content mastery alone is not enough to ensure quality instruction in the classroom,” he said, calling the rule “reckless experimentation.”

In other news, the board changed its board policies and procedures once again.

Tension has been evident at many meetings when Democratic Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz has used her position as chairwoman of the board to block votes, motions or amendments.

The remaining members of the board are mostly Republicans.

The latest change specifically adopts Robert’s Rules of Order as a default mechanism when the board’s own rules don’t address a specific situation.

“That way we have something to fall back on,” said board member Gordon Hendry, who proposed the motion. “It is additional clarity for the board to operate going forward.”

Ritz was the only no vote, pointing out that when the board considered rules options previously, the Attorney General’s Office recommended against Robert’s Rules.