Ciresi, James applaud the inclusion of dance teacher certification legislation in 2022-23 state budget

HARRISBURG, June 14 – Legislation authored by state Reps. Joe Ciresi and R. Lee James to create a direct path for dance teacher certification, H.B. 2678, was included in the 2022-23 state budget.

Due to Ciresi and James’ legislative push, the Public School Code now includes a provision directing the Pennsylvania Department of Education to develop an instructional certificate in pre-K through grade 12 dance, with exceptions for current dance teachers and those in the process of obtaining a dance teaching certificate.

“I am proud that this year’s budget has incorporated Representative James’ and my legislation to create a direct path for dance certification,” said Ciresi, D-Montgomery. “Our legislation sought to improve Pennsylvania’s dance programs by requiring discipline-specific education in dance for new teachers. Now, there will be a clear path to certification for dance teachers, which will improve the quality of Pennsylvania’s dance programs, benefitting the thousands of Pennsylvania students in K-12 schools.”

Previously, Pennsylvania dance teachers could not be directly certified in dance and, instead, were certified in communications or physical or vocational education. According to the legislators, the certification process had a negative impact on dance teacher preparedness, continuing education and Pennsylvania school districts’ dance programs. 

“We had 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 felt we owed it to our dance teachers, students and school district dance programs to have the state 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. I am very glad that this will now happen.”

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

"I was happy to work successfully with Representative Joe Ciresi to get a bipartisan vote from the Pennsylvania House for a direct path to certification for dance instructors,” said James, R-Venango. “Artistic expression in dance is beneficial to physical and mental wellbeing.”

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

“The Pennsylvania Dance Education Organization celebrates this moment. Highly qualified dance educators will now have a direct path towards K-12 certification, to better serve students across the commonwealth by expanding worldviews, community engagement, and personal experiences. We are deeply grateful for Representatives Ciresi and James support in making this impactful initiative a reality,” PDEO said.