State eases some licensing requirements for military spouses with out-of-state certifications

Easing the process for military spouses to transfer professional licenses to Montana has been a priority for some local officials over the last year.

During Monday’s school board meeting, Col. Jennifer Reeves thanked the Great Falls Public Schools district for its effort to address teacher licenses for military spouses.

Tom Moore, who assumes the role of superintendent this summer, said that Reeves came to GFPS with the issue and that outgoing superintendent Tammy Lacey raised the issue with the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

The Board of Public Education meets May 9-10 in Great Falls and will consider issuing the notice of public hearing on the rule change. The public hearing would be June 26 in Helena, according to the board’s agenda packet.

The proposed rule change would create a second type of Class 5 provisional license.

The rule change would allow a provisional license be granted to teachers who hold current certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in an area approved for endorsement in Montana, and apply for endorsement in the same area.

The Class 5A provisional license will be issued to those individuals seeking their initial Montana educator license that meet all licensure requirements except for successful completion of the Montana required Praxis test. This license is valid for one year and is non-renewable, according to the proposed rule change in the board packet.

The reasoning for the change, according to the board packet, is that the Praxis is a quality assurance measure, but completing the test prior to licensure can be difficult for teachers while relocating.

Allowing for a Praxis exemption for the first year would recognize that teachers who have National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification are required to meet high standards including completion of three years of teaching and have a valid teaching license.

That will give them the option to apply for jobs in Montana while completing the full licensure process, Moore said.

Reeves said it’s mutually beneficial to the base and to GFPS.

Moore told The Electric that the licensing process isn’t always very expeditious since every state has its own teacher licensure requirements and Montana doesn’t currently have reciprocity with any state for teacher licensure.

Those military spouses, or other teachers, moving into Montana would still have to compete for jobs, Moore said.

GFPS staff said they have a handful of teaching vacancies currently, but that number fluctuates throughout the year.

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The Montana Legislature also passed a bill this year, that was signed into law by Gov. Steve Bullock, amending language in the rules regarding professional licensure for anyone moving into Montana with a license from another state.

The language changes “may” to “shall issue a license to practice without examination to a person licensed in another state if the board determines that:

  • the other state’s license standards at the time of application to this state are substantially equivalent to or greater than the standards in this state; and
  • there is no reason to deny the license under the laws of this state governing the profession or occupation.

The law still requires verification of the license and that the person isn’t facing pending charges or final disciplinary action for unprofessional conduct or impairment. The law doesn’t prevent a professional licensing board from entering into a reciprocity agreement with other states but the agreement may not permit out-of-state licensees to obtain a license by reciprocity within Montana if the applicant hasn’t met the standards that are substantially equivalent or greater than the standards required in Montana.

Those licensing requirements are different by industry boards and some already have various reciprocityendorsement or compact agreements that allow someone licensed in another state to work here or vice versa.

Last fall, local city and county officials met with state lawmakers and said reciprocity for licensure was a priority since the Department of Defense had indicated it will be a factor in future basing decisions.

Licensing for military spouses was again discussed at a joint city-county meeting with legislators in March.