BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Louisiana is still facing a teacher shortage and members of the state legislature are pushing the Louisiana Department of Education to justify a backlog of teacher certifications.

In a Monday, October 10 Senate Education Committee hearing, the Department of Education was questioned about the backlog, which is impeding the process of getting more teachers into Louisiana’s classrooms.

Approximately 7,000 teacher certifications currently await approval, and many of these are not for new teachers. Some certifications are for mentors or principals.

In any case, these are contributing to a concerning hold up.

The department said it has an annual total of eight people working on the thousands of certificates.

State Superintendent Cade Brumley addressed this surprisingly slim number of workers as well as other reasons for the hold up, saying, “The certification process has to be less complicated, which would be either BESE policy and/or legislative work…but there are reasons for the way that it is now. There were things people wanted to accomplish…the next thing is we would have to have more people working these certificates.”

But Senate Education Chairman Cleo Fields pushed back, asking why the Department of Education didn’t ask for more money to expand their staff during the session.

There were multiple bills passed in the 2022 session aimed at getting more teachers into classrooms in hopes of addressing the 2,520 vacancies from last year.

Brumley explained that his department’s administrative budget was cut and because of this, he expected pushback.

But Sen. Fields, D-Baton Rouge, responded by saying, “We have teachers who want to go and be in the classroom and they’re being bottlenecked with the department. It is a priority and I think this legislature would have given you any and everything you needed to make sure you certified teachers.”

Yet another backlog exists with the Louisiana State Police (LSP). A number of background checks are awaiting consideration by LSP, who say they’re working to accelerate the process by implementing a digital printing system.

The new system is expected to be up and running across the state sometime within the first few months of 2023.

During the Monday meeting, the senators said they hope to put a focus on the certifications for the new teachers entering the workforce.

“I know the other positions are important, don’t get me wrong, but we want to eat the elephant one bite at a time and we need to fill the classroom with teachers,” Se. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles, said.

Amid the extensive questioning Brumley faced Monday, he was able to provide lawmakers with some positive news.

He said teacher vacancies have been cut in half since last year, and announced that there are currently 1,203 openings.