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Changes looming for international educators in South Dakota

International teachers, who often come to the nation on non-permanent visa status, can bring vibrancy and education to communities. However, changes could be coming to the program.

With the state combating teacher shortages, international hires can be key to ensuring staffing while also bringing a fresh perspective to a community.

That is what inspired recent changes to the state program at this week's interim rules review committee.

Kathryn Blaha is division director with the state Department of Education. She said the department wants to repeal certain international teacher permit rules.

“Within the rules as written currently, there are elements that have caused untimely delays in certification and aspects that do not serve the district or educators well," Blaha said. "This permit as it currently stands is a non-renewable, five-year permit. This prevents the opportunity for districts to retain such teachers.”

Blaha said they want to move away from these permits.

“Instead of offering an international teacher exchange permit, we’re proposing consideration of moving toward reciprocity for international teachers that meet specific expectations," Blaha said. "Therefore, the language associated with reciprocity rules are slightly revised to include another U.S. state or territory, and not just states outside South Dakota for language.”

There are still requirements for international educators to meet though.

“We address both reciprocity through the completion of an approved program, and alternative certification," Blaha said. "Of note would be that such educators would only be issued an educator’s certificate through reciprocity if they hold the US equivalent of a bachelor’s degree or higher as indicated by an approved, independent agencies review of credentials.”

With no opponent testimony these adjustments, among others, were approved 5-1 Monday.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture