For Colorado charter schools, it is the exception that proves the rule when it comes to requiring licensed teachers.
There is no denying the expansion of charter schools in recent years. On average, Colorado charter schools have grown by about 12 new schools per year, and according to the Colorado League of Charter Schools, Colorado now has 220 charter schools located in different districts throughout the state.
Charter schools have been referred to as exciting alternatives to traditional education, generating a buzz that has fueled their rapid expansion. On their surface, charter schools look like a safe alternative, especially considering that the Colorado Department of Education requires charter school teachers to be fully licensed educators, with at least a bachelor’s degree, and to demonstrate mastery of their subject area. This is the same requirement that all teachers in the state of Colorado must adhere to if they will be working with our children. Sounds fair, right?
However, charter schools have found a loophole that appears to be fully sanctioned by local school districts. Charter schools have the ability to apply for and receive a waiver from the requirement to employ licensed teachers.
Unlike many other states that allow charter schools, Colorado has no minimum number or percentage of charter school staff that must be licensed. Once a charter school receives a waiver from Colorado Revised Statute 22-63-201 (teacher licensure), there are no further requirements to have even a single licensed teacher.
As an example, a quick lookup of the teachers employed by Montessori Peaks Charter Academy in Jefferson County for the 2015-2016 school year revealed the following results regarding unlicensed staff:
- Teachers with Colorado license: 8 out of 18
- Assistant teachers with Colorado license: 0 out of 18
- Specials (Art, Music, and PE) teachers with Colorado licenses: 1 out of 4
- Principle with Colorado teaching or principal’s license: 0 out of 1
Only about 1/5 educators at Montessori Peaks Charter Academy are Colorado licensed teachers.
So charter school teachers don’t have a Colorado teaching license, what’s the big deal? They have alternative qualifications that make them just as good, or even better right?
Teachers employed at charter schools who use alternative pedagogical strategies are often credentialed in these teaching methodologies. Point of fact, Montessori Peaks Charter Academy boasts that its teachers are certified with a Montessori credential.
Unfortunately there is no required local or national standard or accreditation for these “credentials.” Unlike the rigorous and vetted Colorado teacher licensure programs, there are no binding descriptions or requirements for what constitutes a “credential” for a charter school teacher. While there are a few national organizations for teaching philosophies such as Montessori or Waldorf, there are simply no requirements that Colorado charter school teachers hold a certificate from a program that has been accredited by one of these organizations.
This licensure loophole has become so pervasive that the Colorado Department of Education lists at least 218 of the 220 charter schools receive this waiver, effectively nullifying the requirement for licensed charter school teachers.
As of 2015, approximately 12% of Colorado’s students are being subjected to schools that are not required to have Colorado licensed teachers, without making the families or general public aware. When it comes right down to it, when more than 99% of charter schools are waived from requiring licensed teachers, what good is having a requirement at all?
More than just being ineffectual, saying that Colorado charter schools are required to employ licensed teachers is quite literally false advertising.