Corrected: This story originally included misinformation about Wayne Sanstead’s tenure as superintendent. He has not yet announced whether he will run for a seventh term.
Forget being a “highly qualified” teacher—in North Dakota, the state superintendent soon may not need to be a teacher at all.
After party-line votes by Republicans in both houses of the state legislature, North Dakota is poised to eliminate its long-standing requirement that the state’s elected schools chief hold a teaching license. Gov. John Hoeven, a Republican, is expected to approve the bill, which has failed several times in the past.
The bill, which does not affect the requirements of appointed district superintendents, was opposed by most members of the state’s education community, including the North Dakota Education Association, the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders, and the current state superintendent, Wayne Sanstead, who will be completing his sixth term next year.
“[This bill] may serve the desires of a few ambitious job-seekers who cannot meet the current qualifications, but it does not serve our students or our schools,” Mr. Sanstead said in Jan. 24, testimony against it.
But Rep. Duane DeKrey, a Republican and the primary sponsor of the bill, said he and other Republicans in the House and the Senate believe the existing requirement limits the job pool and prevents qualified candidates from running for the position.
Furthermore, a legal opinion issued by state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjam, a Republican, has called the requirement unconstitutional, though it has never been challenged.
Arkansas—where the superintendent is appointed—is the only other state that requires its state schools chief to hold a teaching license, according to Rep. DeKrey. Nor is having a teaching license a requisite for the highest education position in the nation, as U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings revealed at a recent hearing when she cited her classroom experience as limited to substitute teaching, which does not require certification. (“Spellings Is Grilled on NCLB, Reading First,” March 21, 2007.)
Rep. DeKrey rejects suggestions that his bill is a political move by the GOP to gain control of the North Dakota education department. “I never talked to anyone about it. It was my idea alone,” he said. “I did not do it for political reasons.”
A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 2007 edition of Education Week