Aspiring new teachers in North Carolina have had to wait up to six months to receive their teaching licenses, according to complaints the Department of Public Instruction has received from educators as well as schools looking to hire.
"Teachers who are able to teach in North Carolina schools and want to teach in North Carolina schools should be able to do so," said DPI spokesman Drew Elliot. "They shouldn't have to wait so long to even begin to search for a job."
Traditional public schools require the license for teaching applicants. At least 50 percent of the teachers at a charter school must be licensed.
The Department completed an audit this month to study the delay and improve application processing. Elliot said the goal is to get wait times down to eight weeks.
"That's already longer than a lot of states processing times," Elliot said, referring to findings from the audit that noted several other less-populated states routinely meet their goals of a four week processing time.
North Carolina staff are able to meet the goal of eight weeks during slow months. But in spring and summer, the rush of recent graduates from teaching colleges creates a backlog. The educational consultancy group TNTP was contracted to conduct the audit. The agency surveyed teachers and interviewed state licensing staff to recommend improvements.
The audit found technical glitches and communication problems. One issue is that applicants were able to create new log-in identities every time they returned to an online applications, resulting in multiple applications attached to the same Social Security number that staff then had to sort out.
Deputy State Superintendent Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin told the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee during a presentation on the audit at the committee's January meeting that about 15 staff at DPI are processing 5,000 to 8,000 applications each month.
Elliot says the Department of Public Instruction is working on solutions to implement recommendations from the audit, and that could include hiring more staff to process licenses.