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Teachers in Wisconsin Could Get Lifetime Teaching Licenses Under Budget Proposal

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Imagine never having to renew your teaching license again. 

That would be the reality for teachers in Wisconsin, under a plan proposed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. He has proposed granting teachers lifetime teaching licenses in his budget. Currently, Wisconsin teachers have to renew their licenses every five years, and must complete a verified professional development plan each time. 

The proposal is an attempt at curbing teacher shortages, which have plagued the state, particularly in its rural areas. School districts would still have to perform background checks every few years, according to the Associated Press, and teachers could still lose their licenses for misconduct. Under this plan, teachers would save more than $750 over a 30-year career, Walker's spokesman told the AP.

School districts and the Department of Public Instruction (which would lose 10 full-time positions if it was no longer overseeing license renewals) are on board with the plan—as long as teachers are still required to undergo ongoing training. Walker's plan would not require any ongoing training, according to the AP, and would leave it up to the school districts to decide whether they want to require continuing education. 

"As we attempt to address the educator shortage in Wisconsin, we cannot lose sight of how important it is for all kids to be taught by a highly qualified educator," DPI superintendent Tony Evers said in a statement. "Like many licensed professionals, a big part of keeping current includes some form of continuing education." 

Jon Bales, the executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School Administrators, agrees. He told the AP that he supported the proposal as long as continuing education was still required, because research on learning styles, test formats, and English-language-learner support is constantly evolving. "What will be important for districts is that they have the resources to do that well on an equitable basis across the state," he said. 

It's not yet clear if Walker's proposal will garner enough support to pass the legislature. An alternate licensure plan, proposed by Bales and Evers, would consolidate related subject-area licenses into a single one. (For example, instead of separate licenses for chemistry, physics, and biology, there would just be a science license.) Their plan would also allow teachers to seek one license to teach prekindergarten through 9th grade, and a second license to teach all grades, subjects, and special education, according to the Wisconsin State Journal

Education Week reported recently that states were increasingly easing teacher-licensing rules to help manage teacher shortages. Critics have worried that loosening requirements could reduce teacher quality and diminish teachers' professional status even further. 

Image via Getty

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