The state says it fixed the backlog in issuing teacher licenses, but how did the mess happen?

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Student may be filling classrooms like this in shifts when schools reopen in the fall. Credit: Pixabay.

For would-be teachers and other educators in schools across Florida, it’s a big deal to get a teaching license, or what’s called an educator’s certificate.

But for months this year, the process of getting a certificate in a timely way had been stymied, for reasons not entirely clear to the public.

Nevertheless, the Florida Department of Education on Tuesday announced that a significant backlog has been cleared for educators who need a certificate to teach in a classroom or work as school administrators, guidance counselors or other school staff.

The agency explained in a press release that in January, the DOE had a backlog of 31,666 teacher license applications “in-hand and eligible” to be evaluated, and 15,290 of those had been stuck there for longer than the legal limit of 90 days.

As of mid-May, all applications were completed, according to Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, and the DOE is “in compliance with the 90-day processing limit for all those applications received since January 21.”

“It is simply unacceptable to keep our teachers and schools waiting, because that ultimately means our students are waiting,” Corcoran said in a statement. “We’re grateful for our staff who answered this challenge.”

The press release doesn’t explain why the backlog occurred in the first place.

The DOE did launch a new educator certification system on November 20, 2017, with the agency touting that “this new system streamlines the application process to improve the overall experience for Florida’s educators and school districts.”

But things appeared to go downhill, according to agency officials. The wait-time increased to get a certificate, and there was a dramatic drop in the number of certificates issued in 2017-18 compared to 2016-17.

Why that happened is unclear.

The agency contracted with a vendor called MicroPact Global, Inc. in July 2016, to replace the current certification system, with an original contract of about $3.7-million, according to state records.

The Phoenix requested information from DOE on why the backlog occurred, but the agency did not immediately respond.

In January, Commissioner Corcoran said in a statement that “Upon taking the helm, I became aware of an inefficiency and began immediately developing solutions.” He didn’t provide details of what the  inefficiency was.

Corcoran also addressed what he described as “a leadership deficit in the Bureau of Educator Certification,” but didn’t provide details.

The agency added extra staff to get the backlog down, but it isn’t clear how many staff were working on the issue in the first place.









Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.


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