Unfair rule keeping good teachers from teaching

Rebecca Richardson teaches in the Sumner School District.
Rebecca Richardson teaches in the Sumner School District.

As a 15-year veteran teacher who is a victim of an irrational rule, I am trying to tell the public about this regulation and get it changed.

After spending the first half of my career teaching in public school in Ohio, and the second half teaching in private school in California, I relocated to Washington this summer to be closer to family. I spent a lot of time and money to obtain my Washington state certification, even though I already had an Ohio teaching license.

Imagine my shock and crushing disbelief when I learned that, because of an antiquated and inequitable state regulation, my last seven years of teaching do not count. Suddenly, I have a 25 percent salary reduction with no logical explanation.

The rule – WAC 392-121-264 – is worded such that the single criterion for my not receiving credit is that fact that my previous employer, Sage Hill School, a fully accredited and prestigious private school, did not require me to obtain a California teaching certificate.

I was blindsided by this punitive policy and was hired with no knowledge of it. It greatly discourages any qualified private school educator from teaching in Washington public schools.

Even more frustrating and bewildering is that this policy currently has provisions for educators who have experience in higher education, business, and vocational and technical schools, stating that their experience must be comparable in order to be counted. Yet there is no such provision for private school teachers.

It is insulting, especially considering that educators are decidedly undervalued. Attracting and retaining the best candidates in the field of education should be a priority, and this policy effectively turns away any accredited private school teacher who might be interested in teaching at a public school in Washington.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction’s response to my inquiry into the reason and logic behind this rule is that it was originally created more than 40 years ago to prevent such classified employees as teachers’ aides, paraprofessionals and instructional assistants from receiving valid teaching experience credit.

At Sage Hill, my teaching experience was in no way inferior to my public school experience. I taught nine different French courses, two of which I created, and also earned a master’s degree in French language teaching to accompany my master’s degree in teaching and learning. I taught English in France as a Fulbright teaching award recipient and am currently a candidate for National Board Certification.

I consider myself highly qualified and am passionate about teaching, but greatly disillusioned by the bureaucracy preventing me from being fully recognized for my experience.

No teacher should be placed in this predicament. I speak on behalf of the countless dedicated and qualified private school educators who will be deterred from teaching in Washington public schools if this regulation is not amended.

The true impact will be felt by the students, who are most affected by the harmful ramifications of the rule. They deserve better.

Rebecca Richardson teaches in the Sumner School District.