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Controversial teacher licensure changes scaled back by lawmakers

Controversial teacher licensure changes scaled back by lawmakers


Controversial proposals that would have allowed the state to give teacher licenses to people without high school or bachelor’s degrees are being jettisoned as the state budget heads to the Legislature.

Earlier this budget cycle, Republican lawmakers proposed an alternative way for teachers to get licenses that included allowing the state to license non-degree-holding individuals who are knowledgeable in an area outside the core subjects of math, social studies, English and science. Another proposal would allow individuals with bachelor’s degrees in any subject to teach those core subjects.

Neither proposal required teacher training.

Critics assailed the proposals, saying they would dramatically lower state teaching standards.

Rep. Mary Czaja, R-Irma, who made the initial proposal to change the licensing standards, said the pushback to the measure played a role in it being removed.

Czaja introduced the proposal, in part, to help rural schools hire teachers in subjects that were hard to fill, she said, adding she was disappointed to see it scaled back.

“It’s really going to restrict opportunities in the small rural schools,” Czaja said.

Thursday’s motion did not remove all of the licensing changes. It keeps a proposal allowing the state to grant a teaching license to someone who wishes to teach a technical education subject and has related experience.

The motion also adds a proposal allowing teachers or school administrators who have licenses from other states and have taught or worked for at least one year in those states to get Wisconsin licenses. Administrators must have been offered a job in Wisconsin before they can apply for a license, the proposal says.

Officials with the state Department of Public Instruction, which blasted the licensing proposals when they were introduced this spring, said they were pleased to see the two most controversial provisions removed from the budget.

DPI spokesman John Johnson said better pay and benefits, not lower licensing standards, will attract teachers to rural schools.

But Johnson also said the agency did not support the changes to licensing for technical education and out-of-state teachers — measures he said would mean lawmakers were lowering teaching standards for the third legislative session in a row.

“It lessens, I think, what we expect in Wisconsin … for the folks we put in front of our kids in classrooms,” Johnson said.

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