A provision included in the recently enacted state budget could make it much harder for any teacher not in a public school to be licensed by the state.
The change created a lifetime educator license, eliminating professional development requirements and replacing the current licensing system used for anyone who is not in their first few years of teaching. Because of the way it was written though, teachers not currently in a public school may not be eligible at all to get a license when they go to renew it every five years.
Department of Public Instruction spokesman Tom McCarthy says the language in the budget specifically says getting a certification for a lifetime license requires the approval of a school district. “That means something…we can’t just ignore the definition of school district in that area,” he says.
While it may be a technical error, it could have far reaching implications for thousands of teachers currently licensed by the state who don’t work in a public school district. “If you’re in a private school, if you’re an employee of the Department of Public Instruction, if you work for a CESA (Cooperative Educational Service Agency), if you work for the residential schools that we run – the school for the blind, the school for the deaf – you are out of luck,” he says.
DPI figures show about 35 percent of license holders during the 2016-2017 school year were not reported as currently working in a public school district. That means 42,459 of the 122,839 licensed educators in the state could face problems with renewal in the future if the issue is not addressed and they continue working outside of a public school.
A spokesman for Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac), who chairs the Assembly education committee, says the lawmaker is aware of the problem and efforts that are underway to find a fix. A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) offered a similar response. It remains unclear though if a bill will be introduced and will receive a public hearing before the end of the current legislative session.
McCarthy says DPI remains hopeful a solution can be found quickly to clear up the confusion private school teachers hoping to retain their license currently face.