Colorado teachers could see a 12.5 percent increase in their license fees under a plan being considered by the state Department of Education.
Out-of-state applicants could feel an even bigger bite – 37.5 percent. Resident fees would rise from $80 to $90, while non-resident rates would jump from $80 to $110.
The alternative to increasing fees is reduction of licensing staff and deterioration of customer service, including longer wait times for licenses, CDE officials say.
The department is considering a number of options, and licensing office head Colleen O’Neil presented them to the State Board of Education last week. The board is expected to make a decision in October. Any increases would go into effect Jan. 1.
The reason for the increase is budgetary.
“We absolutely won’t have enough money if we don’t increase fees,” O’Neil told the board.
The licensing office is funded entirely by the fees and receives no revenue from CDE or the tax-supported state general fund. As its name implies, the Office of Educator Preparation, Licensing and Enforcement is responsible not only for licensing and special endorsements but also teacher background checks, investigation of license revocation cases and review of teacher preparation programs operating in the state.
Teacher licensing was in the spotlight a few years ago – including at the legislature – when wait times were running about six months.
“We now have a four- to six-week turnaround time, and in the slower months of the year, two weeks,” O’Neil said. “I don’t ever want to go back to six months, but we definitely would be increasing licensing times” without a fee increase.
Longer wait times can directly affect school districts because it delays their ability to hire, O’Neil noted.
Here are the three options she outlined for the board:
No fee increase – Without cuts, the office would have a $150,582 deficit at the end of 2015-16 and be $443,022 in the red at the end of $443,022.
Recommended increase – Raising fees $10 for residents and $30 for non-residents would allow the office to hire three more staff members, the office would stay in the black and no future increases would be needed for at least five years.
Minimum increase – Only non-resident fees would be raised — by $20 a year — no additional staff would be hired and another increase likely would be needed in two years.
O’Neil said the number of license applications has stayed relatively stable in recent years but that increasing amounts of time are required for investigations, review of preparation programs, customer service and license revocations. The office has a current annual budget of about $3 million and a staff of 24.
About half of initial license requests come from out of state, and those take twice as long to process than resident applications.
More than 37,000 license applications are received each year, and the office issues about 33,000 licenses, credentials and authorizations.
The last fee increases were in 2004 and 2011.
Most teachers don’t have to pay annual license fees. Initial licenses are good for three years, professional licenses run for five years before renewal, master teacher certificates are valid for seven years and substitute licenses are good for one to five years depending on the license type.
Board members asked O’Neil how Colorado compares to its neighbors.
O’Neil said Wyoming charges $150 for residents and $200 for non-residents, while Utah charges $40 and $75. New Mexico charges $125 for both but hits non-residents with $95 fees for each endorsement. Endorsements recognize that teachers have received appropriate training in fields such as special education.