How the 2015-16 Legislature Addressed Teacher Shortage Issues

Hiring effective and dedicated teachers is one of a school board’s most important duties and one that is becoming more and more challenging as teacher shortages are being reported across the country to varying degrees. WASB members are aware of these challenges and have been for some time.  In 2015, the WASB Delegate Assembly passed three resolutions specifically relating to teacher shortages.

One resolution called for the WASB to “support state and federal initiatives to assist rural school districts in their efforts to attract and retain high quality staff, including student loan forgiveness programs and grants for teachers who commit to work in rural school districts for at least a minimum number of years as determined by the legislature”.

To implement this resolution, the WASB Government Relations team worked with Rep. Romaine Quinn (R-Chetek, pictured) to outline a number of options to help rural school districts to attract and retain teachers.  Those discussion gave rise to Assembly Bill 793 which would create a rural teacher loan forgiveness program. The bill passed both the Senate and Assembly and currently awaits the governor’s signature.  Already, some lawmakers are hopeful the program can be expanded in the next state budget.

A second 2015 WASB resolution supported “reasonable efforts to address the shortage of licensed technical education teachers…”  A third 2015 WASB resolution supported “reasonable efforts to provide pathways to licensure for teaching candidates in subject or content areas where there is a shortage of licensed teachers, provided that candidates have bachelor’s degrees and are qualified to be in a classroom as demonstrated by appropriate experience, knowledge and skills in the subject or content area, and rigorous training in pedagogy, assessment, and classroom management”.

In the just-completed 2015-16 legislative session, the Legislature created two new experience-based licensure processes—one for teaching technical education subjects (via the 2015-17 state budget (Act 55; see section 3247p)), and another for teaching vocational education subjects (via Act 259)—for applicants who pass a background check and do both of the following: (1) earn a minimum score on a point system created under the Act; and (2) agree to complete a curriculum determined by the school board of the school district in which they will teach. Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) played a key role in developing both proposals.

Teachers hired by a school district under these two new licensure pathways are issued an initial three-year teaching license by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) that is valid only in that school district and becomes void if the license holder ceases to be employed as a teacher in that school district. Once that initial three-year license is expired, DPI may issue a professional teaching license to the applicant as long as they have successfully completed the curriculum, as determined by the school board that established that curriculum.

These new options are in addition to the emergency licenses or permits that can be granted by the DPI to teachers who already hold teaching licenses but who are assigned to teach outside their licensure areas, or teachers who are hired to teach before completing a state-approved educator preparation program.

Under all three of the above licensing options, school boards play a pivotal role in requesting the license on behalf of the applicant and in ensuring the applicant meet certain standards.

The state budget also provided that a permit to teach industrial arts subjects may be issued to an applicant who is certified by the technical college system board to teach an industrial arts or similar subject.

Finally, the state budget provided for licensure by reciprocity.  It requires the DPI to grant an initial teaching license to any individual who was granted a teaching license by another state and completed at least one year of teaching experience in that state, and to grant an administrator license to any individual who was granted an administrator license by another state and completed at least one year of administrator experience in that state.

The individual must have received an offer of employment from a school in Wisconsin prior to applying for such a license, and the application must be completed by both the applicant and the employing school or school district. The DPI determines the license type, including the subject area and grade level, based on the individual’s out-of-state license type or experience.