Just when we thought Wisconsin could slip no further, they introduce a measure into a bill that would allow high school dropouts to teach high school. The Raw Story reports that the new rule would require the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to license anybody with a bachelor’s degree in any subject to teach English, social studies, math, and science (science? Really?). It would also require them to issue teaching permits to people who don’t have a bachelor’s degree, or, possibly, haven’t even completed high school, to teach any subject except those previously listed.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the new rule was approved as part of a total education budget package for Wisconsin’s K-12 schools. Lawmakers and supporters of this rule say it’s intended to give rural areas more leeway when hiring teachers. Rural areas naturally have fewer qualified individuals to choose from, so this would widen their candidate pool.
However, the Journal-Sentinel says that’s not what rural schools asked for. Jerry Fiene, of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance, says that this would badly undermine certification and hiring standards. “It’s very concerning,” he said. They wanted to be able to allow, say, a licensed, degreed English teacher the leeway to also teach another subject. They didn’t want their hiring standards compromised.
On the surface, this could seem like a good solution. The problem is that, when you lower the standards for hiring for any position anywhere, you also lower the quality of the product or service you provide.
On the other hand, Wisconsin is currently run by Republicans. Republicans keep wanting to cut education budgets everywhere, seeing them as unnecessary wastes of money for small-government, pro-capitalist reasons. Could this be their way of justifying teacher pay cuts? Or could it be their way of trying to sabotage the entire system? After all, when you lower your hiring standards, you can also justify offering less money for those positions, because the people you attract aren’t likely to be as skilled.
If you lower them enough, the whole system falls apart under its poor quality. Then the government can justify privatizing the system, or getting rid of it altogether and putting something else in place that’s privately funded.
If these are not the underlying reasons, then Wisconsin Republicans are just far more stupid than we can possibly give them credit for. While it’s true that some districts have asked for flexibility in credentialing, that was so they could hire someone with relevant experience—but not necessarily a degree—to teach something very specific. Sadly, it’s just as true that this kind of measure could make Wisconsin the easiest state in which to become a teacher. That’s not necessarily a good thing.
Whatever it is Wisconsin’s Republicans hope to accomplish with this, it’s not good for Wisconsin’s students or schools; it essentially takes the licensing process out of the hands of the state, and puts it in the hands of the districts, as the Journal-Sentinel points out. That, in turn, creates a patchwork of licensing standards, and hurts education across the board. Wisconsin would do well to get its head out of the sand, and take a good look around.
Featured image by Ruddin. Licensed under Public Domain via Pixabay