New program is in place, new teachers on the way
The state Department of Public Instruction, with the support of Gov. Scott Walker, rolled out changes in teacher licensing in August 2012.
The new program, called License Based on Equivalency (LBE), created an alternate path to teaching for candidates who have not completed a bachelor's degree through a state-approved college or university education program.
"We know there are people who have completed college, have work and content area expertise, and would like to share their knowledge by becoming teachers in our public schools," State School Superintendent Tony Evers said at the time.
Under the program, candidates with three years of teaching experience in a private school, at a workplace training center, child care center, at the postsecondary level or in industry can provide evidence of their expertise and become eligible to receive a license to teach in a Wisconsin public school.
A performance-based assessment process then is used to determine competency in the Wisconsin educator standards.
As we reported in early 2012, Gov. Scott Walker took a baby step in 2011 toward keeping his campaign promise to allow such "real-world experience" in licensing teachers.
But his move to require that charter school teachers need only a bachelor's degree to teach, rather than a teacher's license, was removed from the state budget.
It sparked discussions, though, between Walker's office and Evers. The state superintendent is independently elected and has worked with Walker on several education initiatives.
Evers' Department of Public Instruction took on the task of creating the new program.
Walker was supportive, and hailed it when it was announced, saying, "Wisconsin has fantastic teachers across the state. We will continue to work together to strengthen this honored profession. We must also help districts find qualified men and women with workplace experience who are interested in sharing their knowledge with the next generation, especially in high need areas like science and math. Today's announcement represents a positive move in the right direction."
The department has received 175 applications under the new licensing program and one already has received a license. Another 91 have cleared one step in the process, spokesman Patrick Gasper said.
In 2013, Walker revived his move to require the department to grant a charter school teaching license to any person who has a bachelor's degree and demonstrates, based upon criteria established by DPI, that the person is proficient in the subjects that he or she intends to teach, legislative budget documents show.
This time, the Legislature approved that, and Walker signed it.
In addition in that budget Walker and lawmakers approved a streamlining of licensing requirements for teachers at virtual schools.
The actions rate a Promise Kept.
Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Public Instruction provisions in 2013-15 budget, Aug. 2013
Department of Public Instruction, "Wisconsin to offer an educator license based on equivalency," Aug. 20, 2012
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "State creates new path to teaching license," Aug. 20, 2012
Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Public Instruction items in 2013-'15 budget, accessed Nov. 5, 2013
Dropped from budget, but efforts under way with Department of Public Instruction
As a candidate for Wisconsin governor in 2010, Republican Scott Walker made promises in a five-page plan to improve schools.
One was to "streamline the licensing process and open the door to aspiring teachers with real world experience."
In February 2011, within weeks of Walker's inauguration as governor, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute called for an overhaul of teacher licensing.
Among other things, the conservative think tank said professionals considering a career change to teaching are discouraged because the license requires "completion of approved training programs requiring, normally, at least two years of full-time enrollment in education coursework."
Walker introduced his 2011-2013 state budget in March 2011. It included a provision requiring that charter school teachers need only a bachelor's degree to teach, rather than a teacher's license.
The change would have been an incremental step in terms of meeting Walker's promise, given that charter schools comprise a small percentage of all public schools.
In any case, in April 2011, a Walker ally, state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee, which she co-chaired, would not consider the charter teacher licensing measure as part of the budget.
Separately, however, the governor's office has had a number of meetings with the Department of Public Instruction, said Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie. The plan is for DPI to develop a series of assessments to measure teaching candidates" content knowledge and their ability to teach, he said.
DPI is run by state Superintendent Tony Evers, who is independently elected. Walker has said he and Evers are not aligned politically but that they have attempted to work together.
DPI spokesman John Johnson said DPI is developing a license for people aspiring to be teachers who have demonstrated teaching and/or work experience directly related to the license they are seeking.
That would go directly to Walker's pledge on teacher licensing.
We rate this promise In the Works.
Wisconsin Public Research Institute, "Teacher Licensure in Wisconsin," February 2011
WisPolitics.com, Sen. Alberta Darling news release about 2011-2013 budget, April 20, 2011
Email interview, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction spokesman John Johnson, May 30, 2012
Email interview, Gov. Scott Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie, May 31, 2012