Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin have introduced a measure that could license teachers who do not have a bachelor's degree.
State Legislative attorneys found in a review that no other state had a law like the one Wisconsin is considering, which would allow anyone with relevant experience to teach non-core subjects in grades 6 through 12. Shawn Johnson, reporting for Wisconsin Public Radio, writes that at least one lawmaker, Sondy Pope (D-Verona), disagrees with the bill and is of the opinion that it disrespects classroom teachers.
"Just because I know how to do a little electrical work does not make me an electrician, and just because I know something doesn't mean I know how to teach it," Pope said.
Wisconsin Education Association Council President Betsy Kippers agrees with Pope.
"I think to automatically make somebody a licensed teacher is not going to get us the high-quality teachers we want," said Kippers. "We forget that there's more than just having a knowledge base of a specific subject area. Teachers also need to know how to teach, and there's so much tied to that.
But Republican Legislators say rural school districts are in need of additional teachers, and Sen. Paul Farrow (R-District 33) explained that this discussion is important and necessary since school districts need more flexibility in order to choose from a larger number of qualified instructors.
"We looked to see if we could streamline that process so that we can get these individuals who are engaged, who have the capabilities and the wherewithal to get in the classroom to teach," Farrow said
The discussion is ongoing and though Farrow says he advocated for a probationary license for candidates with no bachelor's degree, he added the measure still needs to pass the full Legislature.
School districts would be allowed to decide whether to hire a person with an alternative certification, as would private schools that accept voucher students and independent charter schools, according to Scott Bauer of Associated Press. When the provision was added to the state budget, all Republicans were in support and all Democrats were against.
Before becoming law the budget must pass the Senate and Assembly, which are both under Republican control. Gov. Scott Walker has not weighed in on the provision at this time.
Georgia does allow certification of career and technical education teachers who do not have a bachelor's degree. In Wisconsin, the move has received significant criticism from public school advocates, as well as the state teachers union, which believes teacher quality will be hindered.
"We are sliding toward the bottom in standards for those who teach our students," said state superintendent Tony Evers in a prepared statement. "It doesn't make sense. We have spent years developing licensing standards to improve the quality of the teacher in the classroom, which is the most important school-based factor in improving student achievement. Now we're throwing out those standards."
The requirements for teacher licensing in Wisconsin include a degree in education, a recommendation from the college or university the candidate attended, and other prerequisites. As of now, positions in high need areas require alternative teacher training programs, but applicants must already have a bachelor's degree.