Clemmons bill to remove barriers to recruiting top educational talent


Clemmons' first education bill designed to remove barriers to higher best possible principals for our public schools.state licensure for principals educated out-of-state.

The Tennessean

February 12, 2015

The story of a Metro Schools teacher's struggle to become a principal despite having an out-of-state advanced degree has helped inspire legislation addressing the Tennessee Department of Education's licensure process.

Freshman state Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, filed a bill Wednesday that restricts the state board from denying licenses for principals who graduated from a university or college from outside of the state.

Clemmons had heard of the issue through his campaign, but used the story of teacher Ashley Croft's struggles to attain a principal license despite having a master's in educational leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to garner support for the bill.

State Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, has also introduced the bill in the senate. He was approached by Clemmons after Croft's story became public.

"We want to recruit the best talent to get our children the best experience in public schools," Clemmons said. "I want to ensure there are no roadblocks to recruiting the best possible talent in running our schools."

Since 2009, the state allows only for principals to graduate from an approved in-state college or university master's program. Out-of-state applicants must have at least three years of experience as a principal to receive a license.

For Croft to have a shot at becoming a principal, she will have to move out of state. And although there are loopholes, they are costly. A teacher could ask for a review by one of the accredited universities or could re-enroll.

The state Board of Education is also expected to take a look at the issue in April as part of an ongoing review of licensure policies.

"It is possible for them to vote to lift this," Clemmons said. "But I wanted to introduce this to ensure that Tennessee benefits from the best possible educators and best possible education."