Officials Working on Teachers' Training; the State Requires Reading Teachers to Take - and Pay for - 300 Hours of Training

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Byline: BETH REESE CRAVEY

Help may be on the way for reading teachers in Clay County who are frustrated by a state requirement that they not only take 300 hours of training on their own time but also pay for it.

Teachers such as Middleburg's Robert Palmatier are "fed up" with the bureaucracy of education with a training requirement that is the equivalent in time and investment to getting a masters degree.

"There are too many people trying to tell teachers how to do their job," he said.

State Sen. Stephen Wise and Rep. Jennifer Carroll plan to offer a legislative remedy this year.

The specifics of the remedy are undecided, the lawmakers said. But requiring substantial training at teachers' expense was unfair, they said.

"We've begun to work on how to help," Wise said. "We're working with the [state education] department to get this straightened out. ... We will look at both the hours and how they're taken."

Carroll agreed.

"It doesn't have to be this way," she said. "We are moving forward, getting legislation going. ... What we don't want to do is make things worse."

If the training demands are not eased or financed, she said, school districts and their students will feel the ramifications.

"We are going to be losing some great teachers for nonsensical reasons," she said. "We need to make it easier or pay them for it."

The issue is a state requirement that reading teachers undergo 300 hours of training, which stemmed from a change in teacher classification within the state Department of Education.

Also, teachers who have English Speakers of Other Languages students in their classes also have to take 300 hours of training, the outcome of a 1990 lawsuit against the state by Multicultural Education, Training and Advocacy.

As a result, a reading teacher who has an ESOL student ends up with a 600-hour training requirement.

Also, the training is at teachers' expense and does not produce a salary hike upon completion.

Local teachers and the organization that represents them, the Clay County Education Association, met in November with Wise, Carroll, Clay school district officials and state education officials to discuss the issue and have continued to lobby them since. …