Rachael Seibert is a teacher in her eighth year in Columbus City Schools in Ohio. She has a bachelor's and master's degree and welcomes professional development opportunities that improve her teaching. She usually works about 55 hours a week and teaches classes with sometimes as many as 35 students. In short, Seibert is a dedicated professional.
But as far as Ohio Governor John Kasich is concerned, it's just not enough, which is why he has proposed that every classroom teacher take on a mandatory internship or "externship" at a local business in order to renew their teaching licenses.
The proposal can be found in Kasich's 2017-18 budget outline, released in February - one of many that seek to infuse the business world with the state's public schools. Here's what it says:
“Beginning September 1, 2018, the state board of education’s rules for the renewal of educator licenses shall require each applicant for renewal of a license to complete an on-site work experience with a local business or chamber of commerce as a condition of renewal.”
Ryan Burgess, who heads up the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation that designed these and other similar proposals, says this requirement is necessary for educators to learn more about today's businesses - information and ideas that they can then take back to their students and help prepare them for the 21st economy.
It's not that schools and educators shouldn't always find more ways to cultivate more "real world" learning in the classroom, says Seibert. The problem is with Kasich's specific proposal, which she calls "ludicrous."
"I consider myself a highly-educated educator. I know how business works. My husband is small business owner and I integrate real-word topics in the classroom every day. The assumption that we don't know how to this and that we need to 'job-shadow' is insulting," says Seibert.
The Ohio Education Association (OEA) is strongly opposed to tying licensure renewal with on-site work experience with local businesses. "This is another needless hoop for teachers to jump through that was created by those who are not part of the profession," said OEA President Becky Higgins.
Acquiring a better understanding of the kinds of skills employers are seeking is a worthy goal, Higgins added, but it would not be served by Kasich's proposal. In addition to placing another burden on educators, it would likely present a logistical nightmare for businesses that are asked to provide externships for thousands of teachers at a time. (There are roughly 120,000 licensed teachers in Ohio, who must renew their licenses every five years.)
The good news is that the pushback from educators in the state seems to be working. According to the Columbus Dispatch, many legislators, including some of Kasich's GOP allies, aren't too enthusiastic about the job-shadowing proposal, which stands a good chance of being stripped from the budget that will be voted on in April.
“What makes the Kasich administration think that teachers stand to benefit from shadowing businesses—but businesses don’t stand to benefit from shadowing teachers?” said Senator Edna Brown. “This provision treats Ohio educators like children and devalues the hard work they have put in to ensure our kids succeed in the classroom.”
Rachel Seibert believes that if lawmakers are really that concerned about preparing students for the 21st Century workforce, they should put up the funding to open the door to more educational opportunities for students.
"My kids get maybe two field trips over the course of a nine-and-a-half-month school year. It would be great if we could get more money to pay for more of these trips," Seibert says. "So instead of burdening us with this requirement, what John Kasich should be asking us is - 'What can we do to support teachers in helping prepare students for the workplace?'"