News & Resources

Rise in applicants creates screening backlog in Colorado

Apr 01, 2011 Brian Bradley

Having too many teachers in the applicant pool is a problem many states would like to have nowadays. However, in Colorado the deep list of candidates is creating a backlog that is leaving prospective teachers in the cold. According to Education News Colorado, a review by the Colorado Department of Education's Licensing Unit found that teachers are waiting up to five months to be properly screened before they can assume their jobs. The website reports that the problem has become even more critical over the last two years as the number of applications has spiked. Adding to the problem is an outdated approval system and a state law that makes the CDE accountable for all background screening. However, CDE officials receive no additional compensation for the increased workload. Prospective hires are not the only ones being affected. The system jam has interrupted the careers of current employees, including one teacher who faced a three-day suspension because her renewal application did not make it through the system on time. Education News reports that Tammy Schreiner is still waiting for her new license despite applying for a new one in November. The windfall effect is having lasting ramifications for a system that requires proper identity verification before a teacher can return to the classroom. "This is most impactful for those requesting an initial license or those applying for the first time in Colorado," Jami Goetz, executive director of the Office of Professional Services and Educator Licensing for CDE, told the website. "They can’t start teaching – or shouldn’t – until they have their license in hand." Goetz believes the backlog is the end result of a 2003 legislative bill that mandates all school officials, including teachers, undergo fingerprint analysis and background screening. However, rather than the Colorado Bureau of Investigation handling the investigation of applications, the responsibility was passed to the CDE, which was undermanned to handle the task. According to Education News, the CDE must review approximately 2,000 applications per year. "There are over 50,000 licensed teachers in Colorado, and we process about 36,000 to 38,000 licenses every year," Goetz told the source. "Of those, only about 2,000 require any type of investigative background check." Currently, there are about 253,000 names of applicants in the state's database, and the CDE has 10 business days to provide screening information to any school that requests it.