In order to remedy a procedural problem in a new rule that opens up teaching to people who have not gone to a teachers' college, the Maryland Board of Education has decided to put the rule on hold while receiving more public comment.
The board acted after the Maryland State Teachers Association -- which opposes the rule -- threatened to sue the board for moving too quickly.
The rule establishes a "resident teacher certificate," which would be available to applicants with a college degree in the liberal arts. They would be required to take just 90 hours of course work in teaching techniques to qualify.
The big teachers union vehemently protested the resident certificate, and on Monday threatened to sue the board over what is essentially a procedural issue. The union argues that when the board approved the plan last week, it made some changes in the regulation that required prior notice to the public.
Robert C. Embry Jr., the board president, said yesterday that rather than see the resident certificate bogged down in a lawsuit, the board members decided it would be better to open up the issue to further written testimony. After 30 days, the board will take it up again, he said.
The board members were polled by telephone Tuesday and yesterday, he said.
Although the issue involves whether the public was properly notified of the rule changes, the decision to delay the regulation on the new certificate was not made public, either. Word got out only when a top administrator happened to mention the board decision to a radio reporter in Lexington Park during an interview.
Jane Stern, president of the teachers union, said she is "very much gratified" and promised that the union will do all it can to try to persuade the board to drop the resident certificate.
"We are going to be working to organize those people who believe that it's a poor idea," she said.
The union argues that the certificate will allow unqualified people to become teachers. Mr. Embry, among others, believes it will improve the quality of teachers. Since the rule was adopted last Wednesday, hundreds of potential applicants have been calling Maryland school systems.
Most systems say they are not interested, but both Montgomery County and Baltimore City are seeking to take advantage of the resident certificate. Even with the delay, it could be in place by this coming summer.