Educators worry about state budget provision's effects on teacher quality

Educators worry about state budget...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - As Wisconsin's state budget comes up for a vote, some area teachers are worried about how one of its new provisions could affect the quality of schools.

It would require the Department of Public Instruction to give teaching licenses to those with bachelor's degrees who complete an alternative certification program. Educators such as John Havlicek worry that type of program could be an online course with far less classroom experience.

Havlicek teaches Spanish at La Crosse's Central High School.

"I just love it,” he said. “To see the kids start as an acorn and become an oak, I really enjoy that.”

He said it took hundreds of hours of in-classroom experience prior to his career for him to be good at his job.

"I made a lot of mistakes,” Havlicek said. “So, it takes a lot of mistakes to get better."

As president of the La Crosse Education Association, he worries the new provision would allow licenses without necessary experience.

"(If) we're just going to skip all that and have people transition into the classroom, it's not going to go well."

Havlicek also said that schools most in need of qualified teachers might suffer the most, because they're the schools with the biggest shortages and would be more likely to hire teachers who receive their licenses in this way.

The provision is tackling the state's teacher shortage, which Bangor superintendent Dave Laehn said schools are feeling, both small and large.

"That's very, very concerning for all of us,” he said. "I think we do have to look at different ways to get more people into the teaching field."

Laehn isn’t sure about the new provision yet.

"One of the criticisms I've heard is there was no debate or discussion about this program,” he said.

However, he knows he'd want any alternative teaching certification programs to be properly vetted.

"I'm hoping some of these programs, the alternative certifications and some of the other things they're changing, will attract people to education,” Laehn said. “At the same time, we want to make sure we're getting best qualified people because it’s the most important job in the world."

The provision would require people to pass certain exams through their certification programs to get their licenses. The providers of such programs do have to operate in at least five states and be around for at least 10 years.

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