With the 100th day of school approaching quickly for Wisconsin Public Schools, educators are still experiencing the impact the state’s growing teacher shortage has on our students and workload. The problem is escalating, yet meaningful solutions are few and far between. We’ve seen policymakers opting for quick fixes – including a law that allows a teaching certificate for someone who takes an online course with no student teaching.
WEAC has brought forward your solutions for the teacher shortage: Professional pay, planning and preparation time, and holding school leadership accountable for a positive school climate. Yet, the media has reported that since 2011 a whopping 60 percent of school districts have slowed or offered no growth in teacher pay/benefits and 75 percent of districts reported losing teaching staff when outbid by other districts in the “free-agent” approach to the teaching corps. “I’ve grown tired of it, so I’m moving on,” one veteran teacher simply explained.
Solving the teacher shortage
Whether looking at the national research or asking a Wisconsin educator, the reason for the teacher shortage is clear: teaching and learning conditions. Recruiting and retaining the right number of teachers who possess the right qualifications is not enough to ensure Wisconsin’s public-school students are well served. Teachers must also have the right working conditions in place to teach effectively and for students to learn at the highest levels rooted in critical thinking, inquiry, and problem solving.
In recent years Wisconsin Educators have experienced decreased professional autonomy as seen in scripted curricula, state mandated SLOs, and highly prescriptive employee handbooks. Teacher workload is excessive with tasks that do not promote student learning such as data entry and excessively assigned duties.
Perhaps the most under acknowledged reason for the teacher shortage is the downward trend in teacher salary and benefits in Wisconsin. The erosion of relative teacher pay has fallen heavily on the most experienced teachers, and many early career educators do not have the ability to accurately project future earnings making it difficult to make decisions enabling one to maintain a middle-class standard of living.
DPI proposal overhauls PI-34
The Department of Public Instruction is offering the latest idea to solve the teacher shortage – an overhaul to the state’s teacher licensure law, PI-34. WEAC has prepared an overview of the proposal, and will be posting Frequently Asked Questions.
Teacher licensure and teacher rights
The proposed overhaul represents two areas – licensing and teacher rights. While the licensure provisions represent a mixed bag of ideas crafted with input from a council of education stakeholders including WEAC, provisions in the overhaul aimed at limiting teacher rights create sweeping changes to disciplinary action based on arbitrary and questionable judgments.
WEAC is seeking assurances from the DPI that all current license holders are grandfathered or given the option of expanding licensure in any or all forms as outlined in the changes. We are also calling on the DPI to develop and promulgate rigorous protocols and procedures for assuring that any district-sponsored license be implemented in an objective manner with fidelity. Without criteria that assures that stringent quality control measures are in place WEAC stands opposed to the district sponsored licensure proposal. This includes, but is not limited to, direct involvement by a master educator holding such a license or an Institute of Higher Education that has a teacher preparation program approved by the DPI. Without the requirement candidates for licensure demonstrate comprehensive training in subject matter content and pedagogy, Wisconsin’s students are at risk of being provided educators who are inadequately prepared.
Teacher Rights Proposals:
The DPI has proposed a series of sweeping changes that directly impact teacher rights associated with potential disciplinary action which do nothing to attract or keep teachers in the profession and undermine the concept of a team of educators working for student success. WEAC believes DPI has overstepped its authority with this extensive overhaul that reaches beyond license revocation. Along with creating a very broad category called boundary violations as aggravating factors that could cause a license to be revoked, the overhaul rewards teachers for becoming informants against other teachers, allows the DPI to suspend teachers with limited proof and creates categories of offenses in which the DPI may revoke a license, and when it must. Instead of felonies being the reason a license is revoked, there are new vague offenses, such as revocation for a teacher who engages in more than one boundary violation – which covers a wide scope of arbitrary judgments, like showing favoritism.
Educators are encouraged to provide written comment or attend one of five public hearings this month. Read all proposed changes here.