Governor’s Budget Plan Makes Significant Changes to Teacher Licensure

2017-state-budgetGov. Walker’s proposed 2017-19 state budget recommends a reexamination of professional licensure generally in our state, and includes proposals to significantly change teacher and administrator licensure.

The Governor recommends that, rather than being subject to a five-year renewal, teaching and administrator licenses would be life licenses (i.e., perpetual), other than in cases of misconduct. The elimination of renewal requirements would apply to licenses issued after the effective date of the budget bill. (Note: In a separate change unrelated to licensure, the governor proposes repealing the existing statutory language that limits the contract term of school administrators to two years.)

Currently, background checks are conducted by the DPI each time licenses are renewed. The budget would transfer responsibility for periodically conducting criminal background checks on individuals who hold a DPI license from the DPI to the local school board that employs the individual license holder.

Beginning on the effective date of the budget act, each school board, with the assistance of the state Department of Justice, would be required to conduct a background check on teachers and administrators employed by the board at least once every 5 years after the initial background investigation was conducted by the DPI when the license holder was first issued a license.

Among other changes to licensure, the proposed budget plan would:

  • repeal the requirement that, in order to receive a teaching license based on licensure in another state (a/k/a licensure by reciprocity), a teacher must have a job offer in Wisconsin.
  • authorize postsecondary faculty (e.g., a college professor or tech college instructor) to teach in a high school without a DPI teaching license so long as the faculty member is in good standing with his or her employing institution and has a bachelor’s degree.
  • clarify that school districts may compensate student teachers under state law; and
  • create a new Teacher Development Program, which supports collaborations between schools of education (in particular the University of Wisconsin and its Flexible Option Program) and school districts to provide intensive curriculum and classroom training for certain school employees to earn a teaching license. Collaborating entities will be allowed to seek project funds from Wisconsin Fast Forward, a program administered by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

The governor proposes cutting 10 positions from the DPI to reflect the elimination of   licensure renewals systems and cites a desire to ease administrative burdens on the DPI  and school districts  and to reduce the time and financial burdens on teachers and administrators. He estimates the change to perpetual or life licenses would save the average teacher about $750 over the course of their working career.

Supporting budget documents suggest the Governor’s intends school districts should use the educator effectiveness (EE) system to ensure excellence and accountability in the state’s teaching and education leadership workforce rather than state licensure and the professional development plan framework laid out by the DPI’s PI 34 administrative rules.

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