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Should Teachers Be Licensed?

If a new proposal gains traction, public school teachers may no longer need to be licensed in order to teach.  I thought of that after reading how "more than ever, the government requires Americans to get permission to earn a living" ("Licenses to Kill Opportunity," The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 25).

Although the cited editorial refers strictly to 102 lower-income professions across the country identified by the Institute for Justice, I see relevance to the teaching profession.  Charter schools want to license their teachers rather than let the states in which they operate do so.  Proponents assert that the No. 1 reason state licensing exists is because guild members sit on state licensing boards.  Their goal is to limit competition.

Perhaps that is the case in some fields, but I submit that it does not apply to teaching.  Traditional public schools by law must enroll virtually all who show up at their doors regardless of ability or motivation.  To suggest that college graduates who are well versed in their subject matter field alone can be effective is unrealistic.  Private schools and religious schools are allowed to hire unlicensed teachers who quite often are successful.  But that's because the students who are enrolled have chosen to be there. As a result, discipline is not nearly as difficult as in traditional public schools. 

Charter schools are public schools, but they operate by a completely different set of rules than traditional public schools.  Therefore, I think that allowing them to dilute the requirements for their teachers will prove to be counterproductive in the long run.  Licensing exists for a good reason.  I maintain that the best college professors who are experts in their field of specialization would have a difficult time teaching in a traditional public school.  What works in higher education does not work in K-12.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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