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Florida teachers win six-month extension to renew credentials

The state’s largest teacher organization asks the Department of Education to consider a year instead.
Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran says extending the deadline for teachers to renew their certification is "very critical" for the 2020-21 school year.
Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran says extending the deadline for teachers to renew their certification is "very critical" for the 2020-21 school year. [ The Florida Channel ]
Published May 13, 2020|Updated May 13, 2020

Since the state closed many operations because of COVID-19, a number of Florida teachers have struggled to finish the work needed to keep their professional credentials up to date.

“They shut down classes for eight weeks,” Florida Education Association president Fed Ingram said, referring to courses teachers take to stay certified and adequately trained.

And now many educators are finding they cannot get back into those programs until late in the fall. That scenario has raised concerns that their schools might not rehire them for the coming academic year.

Calling the issue “critical,” Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran suspended the expiration of all certifications, along with training endorsements in such areas as reading and English-language learning, through the end of 2020.

The state moved the deadlines for completion, Corcoran said, because “the program requirements cannot be fully met.”

On Wednesday, he enshrined the move in a 12-page emergency order that covers a variety of education operational matters that have been interrupted by the pandemic.

Other actions include allowing prekindergarten providers to continue working if enrollment falls below four children, extending deadlines for Individual Education Plan meetings and updates, and allowing students to remain in English language learner programs without additional assessment until such reviews are able to occur.

The order comes about a week after Corcoran waived five days of required instruction for school districts that missed the time because of the extended spring break as the COVID-19 closures arose in March. He said that, because the state canceled testing, the amount of learning for the year would not be diminished by the change.

Ingram, whose organization had called for many of the steps, said the order was a positive move that will help in the short term. He still worried, though, that some teachers could end up losing their classrooms in the middle of the school year if they cannot complete their certification by January.

“It puts us in a little bit of a bind,” he said, suggesting the department might consider lengthening the period to renew to a full year.

A spokeswoman for the FEA asked the State Board of Education on Wednesday to look into the longer time frame. No one responded directly to that idea.

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