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Wisconsin budget brings lifetime licenses for teachers

Wisconsin teachers who hold professional or master licenses now have lifetime educator licenses, after the recently-passed state budget eliminated the professional development requirements educators had to complete to renew their licenses.

To keep lifetime licenses valid, teachers have to be teaching and submit a background check every five years.

Prior to the state budget, professional development requirements varied for educators depending upon their license type, but they included things such as taking six credits of undergraduate or graduate course work or completing a professional development plan.

There are three types of teaching licenses in Wisconsin:

• Initial educator license for first-time teachers

• Professional educator license for educators who have completed five or more years of teaching

• Master educator license, which is an optional 10-year license

Teachers holding the initial educator licenses won't be automatically given lifetime licenses. They will receive a three-year provisional license, and after six semesters of teaching, they can apply to the state Department of Public Instruction for a lifetime license.

Wisconsin Education Association Council President Ron Martin said he's concerned about what he called the "dumbing down of the teaching profession." He said that while busy teachers do need some requirements scaled back, this isn't the right one.

"We're highly qualified people. We take in people's most precious possessions — their children — every day," Martin said. "And for us at WEAC, it's incredibly important that there's a highly qualified educator in every single classroom in the state of Wisconsin."

Martin said WEAC and other educators weren't consulted about the change.

Wisconsin offered lifetime licenses for teachers until 1983, when it began requiring teachers to show professional growth to renew their license every five years.

Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard in the Twin Ports at 91.3 FM or online at wpr.org/news. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.

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