Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has signed a bill that will allow instructors, regardless of their education, to teach specific vocational education classes in public schools. The new measure's licensing process will be based on experience in non-core subject areas including business education, home economics, and agriculture.
According to the Wisconsin Ag Connection News, a person seeking employment would be hired by school district officials and be given a three-year temporary license provided by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). Once the first certificate runs out, the DPI may award the instructor a professional teaching permit if he or she has completed and passed the required curriculum set by the district for which the person has taught.
The governor signed the bill at the Brown Deer School District, which is a school group that has experimented with giving experience-based licenses to qualified applicants.
"This law will make it easier for school districts to fill much-needed teaching positions with professional and experienced individuals, which will assist in allowing school districts to offer courses in vocational areas that may not currently be offered to help Wisconsin students learn about in-demand careers and better prepare them for the workforce," Walker said at the signing.
Proponents say this idea is especially useful for rural schools where finding qualified teachers can be challenging. Now that current requirements have been relaxed, competent faculty members can be hired to fill these gaps.
Those against the new law, including the DPI and teachers unions, are concerned that quality education standards will be lowered in the state.
The legislation's authors were Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown).
Wisconsin Education Association Council President Betsy Kippers said in a hearing in December that there is room in the educational realm for allowing more pathways for teachers to be licensed, but the pathways will have to support Wisconsin's history of lofty standards, reports Andrew Bahl for The Daily Cardinal.
Annysa Johnson, writing for the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, says that many districts in the state are facing a critical deficit of vocational education teachers. They want the flexibility to attract experienced adults to classrooms. Without that adaptability, many necessary courses that prepare kids for work or more training at technical schools would not have be possible.
At Brown Deer High School, students can be found measuring, sawing, drilling, and sanding. Their teachers, Craig Griffie and James Peter, walk around the classroom monitoring work, giving suggestions, and answering questions. The teachers are college-educated and have construction backgrounds. Last year they were asked to assist the school by way of the state's former emergency licensing policy that was created to help schools fill emergency openings.
Only a few of Wisconsin's colleges or universities for teachers offer majors in specialty voc-ed courses, such as agriculture, business, or family and consumer sciences, and the handful that do have watched enrollment slump.
In the past three years, there have been two to four times as many vacancies in voc-ed specialties as there have been graduates to step into those openings.