Changes to teaching license regulations may benefit area school districts

Changes to how Wisconsin teachers are licensed will go in to effect next week. State education officials argue this will create flexibility for districts when hiring staff members.

A lot of the changes rewrite or provide updates to the regulations surrounding teacher licenses. The goal is to simplify and streamline the licensure process to ease a widespread teacher shortage, according to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

The School District of La Crosse is looking to fill about 10 to 15 openings.

“[We have] a few teaching positions left for the school year and then a number of support staff,” said Mark White, human resources director for the district.

Under the ‘P.I. 34’ revisions, the rules that govern how licenses are issued, the district said it may be easier for out of state teachers to become licensed in the state.

“They’ve loosened that up to basically say, ‘We’ll take people from other states and then we’ll work with them in their first year or two to take any additional coursework that they might need to take to be licensed in the state,'” White said.

Before, teachers might only be certified to teach a certain age range. But now, they may be able to go slightly beyond that range if they show they can.

“One of the biggest changes or shift existed in that connection between middle grades and high school grade,” said Tom McCarthy, communications director for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Under one of the rules being updated is a license with stipulations, which used to be called an emergency license. It means some applicants wouldn’t need their certification when they start, but there is a catch.

“There are stipulations put on to that license saying, ‘You need this particular thing to continue to advance. If you don’t do that, you’ll likely be coached out of the field,'” McCarthy said.

These new standards won’t change how the district hires as a whole. It will just expand their search a little further to find the most qualified candidates-including the teachers they already have.

“We have people with lots of skills that are maybe stuck in a certain grade level. If we can advance that a grade level or two to give them more flexibility to help the district out, we think that’s a good thing,” White said.