Ciresi and James introduce legislation to modernize dance teacher certification in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, June 15 – State Reps. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery, and R. Lee James, R-Venango, today announced the introduction of their legislation to create a direct path for dance teacher certification, H.B. 2678.

Under current regulations, Pennsylvania dance teachers cannot be directly certified in dance and, instead, are certified in communications or physical or vocational education. According to the legislators, the current certification process has had a negative impact on dance teacher preparedness, continuing education and Pennsylvania school districts’ dance programs. 

“We introduced this legislation to modernize dance teacher certification in Pennsylvania by enabling dance instructors to be certified in their discipline and ensure our dance teacher certification standards align with national standards,” Ciresi said. “We owe it to our dance teachers, students and school district dance programs to have the PA Department of Education establish a direct path for new dance teacher certification, requiring discipline-specific education in dance for new dance teachers, just as we do for instructors in music, visual art, math and science.”

Critics have faulted both the fact that dance teachers’ certification does not have any dance-specific content and that the current different paths to dance teacher certification create undue confusion, promote work-arounds, and make it unreasonably difficult for dance educators to pursue certification within Pennsylvania.

The legislators contend that modernizing dance teacher certification would benefit the thousands of Pennsylvania students served each year by dance programs in K-12 schools by ensuring quality instruction for a discipline already identified as one of four required arts disciplines under the Pennsylvania State Standards for Arts and Humanities.

“I am delighted to join my colleague, Representative Ciresi, in advancing this bill to accelerate the certification of new and former dance instructors for our secondary and higher education institutions,” James said. “Dance education is beneficial on several levels, including personal fitness, stress relief, and concentration -- and it’s just plain fun. This legislation would help get our qualified instructors into classrooms and dance studios in our state and so fulfill a need which has grown over time. We hope for quick passage through the legislature and the governor’s office.”

The legislators said the Pennsylvania Dance Education Organization supports the legislation and produced a 2019 needs assessment showing both sufficient demand from school districts and capacity for teacher training at PA higher educational institutions for a direct path to dance teacher certification.

PADEO said, “The Pennsylvania Dance Education Organization is grateful to representatives Ciresi and James for introducing this bill, which will serve to enhance high quality teaching in Pennsylvania, support teacher shortages in the arts, which will be vital for helping children post pandemic overcome social-emotional delays and make it possible for pre-service dance teachers in Pennsylvania to stay in-state for college and employment in K-12 schools.”

House Bill 2678 has been referred to the House Education Committee.