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Question & Answer Regarding Licensing and Certification Requirements for Teachers in Charter Schools Under ESSA

Dear colleagues,

We have received a few questions about the teacher certification requirements with respect to charter school teachers with the change to remove the Highly Qualified Teacher requirements. In response, we developed the response below that we want to share with all State educational agencies in case it is helpful to you in your planning.


Patrick Rooney
Office of State Support

Q: What are the licensing and certification requirements for teachers in charter schools under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)?

A: The ESSA does not proscribe specific licensing requirements for teachers in charter schools (or any other public schools), and charter school teachers must be licensed and certified only as required by applicable State law, including the State’s charter school law.

Previously under the ESEA, as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act, local educational agencies, whether or not they operated as charter schools, needed to ensure that their teachers met requirements governing Highly-Qualified Teachers (HQTs). These included the need to ensure that all charter school teachers met the certification requirements contained in the State’s charter school law. The ESSA has eliminated these HQT requirements.

Instead, section 1111(g)(2)(J) of the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA, only requires the State educational agency (SEA) to provide an assurance that the State will “ensure that all teachers and paraprofessionals working in a program supported with funds under [Title I, Part A] meet applicable State certification and licensure requirements, including any requirements for certification obtained through alternative routes to certification.” Therefore, charter school teachers (like all other public school teachers) must be licensed and certified only as required by applicable State law.

About the Author

Steven Spillan is an associate with the Washington, DC law firm of Brustein & Manasevit, PLLC. Established in 1980, the Firm is nationally recognized for its federal education regulatory and legislative practice, providing legal advice regarding compliance with all major federal education programs as well as the federal grants management requirements, including the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR). In addition, they work with agencies on federal spending flexibility, allowability, policies and procedures, audit defense and resolution and legislative updates. The Firm provides government relations services for the National Title I Association.