The Connecticut General Assembly will vote on a bill that would reintroduce teaching endorsements for kindergarten after it passed out of the Education Committee by a unanimous favorable vote.
If passed, HB 6879 would undo 2013 changes to state statute that eliminated kindergarten from the state’s elementary education teaching endorsement, resulting in a shortage of kindergarten teachers. HB 6879 would reinstate a grades kindergarten through six (K-6) teaching endorsement, effective July 1, 2023, and make endorsements issued prior to this date for grades one through six (1-6) valid for grades K-6.
The bill would also create the Commission to Modernize the Educator Workforce, which would review and analyze the state’s teacher certification statutes and regulations.
Currently, kindergarten teachers must either have earned the K-6 endorsement before the state phased it out or hold an endorsement in integrated early childhood education and special education. According to public hearing testimony from Elizabeth Sked of the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), the integrated certification does not attract teachers because it could “result in a teacher being assigned to a Special Education setting—especially given shortages in that field.”
Teachers with a 1-6 elementary education endorsement can also teach kindergarten for one year with the approval of the Commissioner of Education, given at the request of a superintendent. The commissioner may extend this endorsement for a second year if the teacher can demonstrate they are enrolled in a program to earn an endorsement to teach kindergarten.
According to the Connecticut Department of Labor, there are a projected 140 annual job openings for kindergarten teachers between now and 2030. An August 2022 staffing survey of all school districts by the State Department of Education (SDE) found 1,221 teaching vacancies ahead of the 2022-2023 school year. At current levels, kindergarten teaching vacancies account for approximately 11 percent of the state’s overall teaching shortage.
To help address shortages, the State Board of Education (SBE) issues temporary emergency endorsements for educators who hold professional or provisional teaching certificates. Among these is an emergency generalist certificate for grades prekindergarten through eight, issued for the 2021-2022, 2022-2023, and 2023-2024 school years.
CEA was one of several education associations that testified in favor of HB 6879, stating the bill would eliminate the need for “band-aid fixes” such as emergency endorsements and “provide a long-term solution to a growing problem.”
The Connecticut Association of Boards and Education; Connecticut Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity and Opportunity; ConnCAN; the Connecticut Association of Schools; and the Connecticut chapter of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education testified in favor of the bill, as did superintendents from New Haven, Old Saybrook, and Farmington.
The SDE does not support the bill. During public testimony, SDE Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker acknowledged that reintroducing the certification of kindergarten teachers would “allow for much needed staffing flexibility” but highlighted the department’s concerns with the bill.
“However we also acknowledge that the Office of Early Childhood has raised concerns with this proposal potentially exacerbating the shortage of qualified early childhood educators, and therefore we are currently working together on an early childhood endorsement that can be added to an elementary certificate for teachers with elementary certification.” said Russell-Tucker.
SDE is asking the legislature not to change the statute while the endorsement is under development. In the interim, it has agreed to offer a waiver for teachers endorsed to teach first through sixth grade to also teach kindergarten during the 2023-2024 school year.
All 44 members of the Education Committee voted in favor of advancing a substitute version of the bill, which now awaits legislative approval.