- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin may be the first state in the country to certify teachers who don’t have bachelor’s degrees under a provision put in the state budget, a move that has drawn widespread criticism and that Gov. Scott Walker refused to say Thursday whether he supports.

Under the change, anyone with relevant experience could be licensed to teach non-core academic subjects in grades six through 12. They would not need a bachelor’s degree and they could even be a high school dropout.

Anyone with a bachelor’s degree could be licensed to teach in core subjects of English, math, social studies or science.

The decision on whether to hire someone with the alternative certification would be up to the school district, including private schools that accept voucher students and independent charter schools.

The provision was added to the state budget last week with a 1:30 a.m. vote, with all Republicans in support and Democrats against. The budget must pass the Senate and Assembly, both controlled by Republicans, and be signed by Walker before becoming law.

Walker was asked Thursday whether he supported the certification change, which he did not propose. He declined to comment, saying it was something he would look at once the budget passes.

Walker has expansive veto power that he can use to rewrite the budget once it passes the Legislature.

No other state allows teachers who don’t have a bachelor’s degree to be licensed, according to the state Department of Public Instruction. Georgia does allow for certification of career and technical education teachers without a bachelor’s degree, DPI said.

State Rep. Mary Czaja, R-Irma, has said she proposed it to help rural schools find and retain teachers.

The idea has generated widespread criticism from public school advocates, including the statewide teachers union, who worry it will lessen the quality of teachers in the classroom.

“We are sliding toward the bottom in standards for those who teach our students,” said state superintendent Tony Evers in a prepared statement. “It doesn’t make sense. We have spent years developing licensing standards to improve the quality of the teacher in the classroom, which is the most important school-based factor in improving student achievement. Now we’re throwing out those standards.”

In Wisconsin, the main way a person can be licensed to teach is by completing a degree in education and other requirements, and then be recommended for a state license by their college or university.

There are several alternative teacher training programs focused on filling high-needs areas, but those are focused on people who already have a bachelor’s degree.

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP


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