Wisconsin Reacts to Teacher Shortage

Yesterday, I noted that Utah has adopted a pretty silly policy as a means of addressing the teacher shortage. Now, word that Wisconsin is changing teacher license standards to allow more people to enter (or re-enter) the field.

The Lacrosse Tribune reports:

State schools Superintendent Tony Evers on Tuesday announced a group of changes to the state’s teacher licensing process including allowing teachers with emergency one-year licenses to renew even if they haven’t yet passed required tests, and allowing retired teachers or teachers planning to retire to gain a nonrenewable five-year license without going through training typically required to get such licenses.

The part about retired teachers actually makes some sense — in that case, you have teachers with classroom experience and a record that can be reviewed. Renewing emergency licenses is somewhat more problematic because it renders the term “emergency” a bit meaningless. It’s not difficult to imagine a scenario in which Wisconsin just ditches the whole emergency license scheme and goes the way of Utah, allowing anyone with a college degree who can pass a test to teach.

The larger issue is the teacher shortage that is impacting states and districts across the country.

A lobbyist for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards noted:

“For whatever reason, the status of teachers is not being seen as high as it once was,” said Rossmiller. He said when teachers stopped receiving pay raises to keep up with cost of living increases, the attractiveness of the profession declined.

And the story also pointed out a decline in the number of college students seeking teaching degrees:

According to research released earlier this year by the Public Policy Forum based on U.S. Department of Education data, enrollment in the state’s teacher preparation programs fell by 28 percent between the 2008-09 school year and the 2013-14 school year.

This is the story in Wisconsin, in Utah, and in states and districts around the country. Policymakers are now trying “innovative” solutions that don’t require the expenditure of any money or political capital. Instead of revamping teacher prep and boosting teacher pay, policymakers are devaluing the teaching profession while also laying more and more responsibility at the feet of teachers.

“For whatever reason…” says the WASB lobbyist — the reason is pretty clear. When we don’t invest in and support teachers, we don’t attract new people to the field and it becomes difficult to keep the teachers we do have.

There’s also a relatively uncomplicated solution: Boost teacher pay and provide the necessary supports to ensure teachers can do their jobs.

For more on education politics and policy, follow @TheAndySpears



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