Walker proposes new teacher licensure plan to wide criticism


January 23, 2015


MADISON Gov. Scott Walker wants to create a new pathway for people with "real-life experience" to get licensed to teach in Wisconsin, but his proposal raised concerns Thursday among those in the education community because it requires no training in how to be an effective teacher.

Walker's plan was one sentence in a news release that detailed other initiatives designed to help create jobs in high-demand fields. His plan would allow someone to forego collegiate-level education courses and instead permit anyone with a bachelor's degree who can demonstrate proficiency in the areas they want to teach to be licensed.

It would only apply to subjects in grades 6 to 12. The license would be valid for three years.

The statewide teachers union and the lobbyist for a group representing school principals, superintendents and other administrators criticized the proposal.

"We've got some significant concerns about its philosophical underpinning," said John Forester, lobbyist for the School Administrators Alliance.

He said the evidence shows that high-quality preparation for teachers is what really matters for schoolchildren. Forester said Walker's proposal "bypasses the skill of being able to teach in an understandable way to children."

Betsy Kippers, a Racine teacher and president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, noted that there are already alternative paths for licensing that require instruction on how to be an effective educator.

"Every child should have a caring, qualified and committed teacher with a solid background in how to teach, along with what to teach," Kippers said in a statement.

Walker's proposal would require the state Department of Public Instruction to create a competency exam. DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy raised the same concerns that teachers and administrators did.

"You need more than textbook knowledge to be the kind of teacher that connects with students and helps all kids learn," he said. "Like a skilled surgeon or a master electrician, high-quality teaching requires both skills and content knowledge."

The department's alternative methods to obtaining a teaching license generally require previous teaching experience or are largely targeted to specific high-needs areas.

Walker proposes technical college tuition freeze

MADISON Gov. Scott Walker is proposing a partial freeze on tuition at Wisconsin's technical college system as part of his plan to help put people to work.

Walker on Thursday said his state budget would include a proposal to freeze tuition for technical college students who go into high-demand fields. He had promised to make that proposal during last year's campaign.

He is also calling for increasing aid for technical college scholarships and making all state aid to technical colleges dependent on meeting worker training requirements.

That requirement would take place gradually and not be fully in effect until 2020.

More details about the proposals were to be included in Walker's budget, which he is releasing to the Legislature on Feb. 3.

Wisconsin governor touts drug testing for aid recipients

MADISON Medicaid recipients in Wisconsin would be required to undergo drug testing and could be limited in how long they can receive benefits under measures proposed Thursday by Gov. Scott Walker, who is positioning himself as a reformer as he eyes a 2016 presidential run.

The idea, which Walker first proposed during his re-election campaign, will be included in his state budget released to the Republican-controlled Legislature on Feb. 3. Walker announced for the first time Thursday that the plan would apply to childless adults on Medicaid, as well as those applying for or receiving aid from other state benefit programs.

While best known nationally for effectively ending collective bargaining for public workers in 2011, Walker is trying to bring attention to other efforts he argues will bolster his resume for reshaping government.

"With this budget, we are addressing some of the barriers keeping people from achieving true freedom and prosperity and the independence that comes with having a good job and doing it well," Walker said in a statement.

Eleven states already require drug testing of at least some welfare recipients, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. And four states require drug-testing of at least some people filing for unemployment compensation.

But the idea has run into legal problems.

A federal appeals court in December affirmed a ruling that a law in Florida requiring mandatory drug testing of welfare benefit applicants was unconstitutional. And Georgia officials last year put on hold a new law requiring drug testing of food stamp recipients amid concerns about its legality.

Walker is proposing that drug testing be required for childless adults on Medicaid and everyone applying for or receiving benefits from a variety of state aid programs, including unemployment insurance and FoodShare, which is Wisconsin's food stamp program. Walker said those who fail the drug test would be given the opportunity to participate in a free drug-treatment program and receive job training.

Walker is also calling for lowering from five to four years the total period that able-bodied adults can receive welfare benefits under the Wisconsin Works program.

That will save the state $3 million over two years, Walker's spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said. She also said the drug test requirement would save the state money, but estimates would not be released until next month.

Walker's office did not say how many people would be subject to the drug tests.

Rep. Peter Barca, the Democratic minority leader in the Assembly, said Walker's plan would "further hurt people striving to get to the middle class" and his goal should be to help all people in the state.


Associated Press