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Expansion of teacher apprenticeship program awaits Evers’ decision

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(The Center Square) – Expansion in the way Wisconsin prepares new teachers has passed the state Assembly and awaits a decision from second-term Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

His decision has yet to be signaled.

Only nine technical colleges and one university offer apprenticeship programs. It’s small and Assembly Bill 1005 adds to it. The Institute for Reforming Government says regions like Milwaukee, Madison and rural western and central Wisconsin are cut off from the teacher apprenticeship supply.

Rep. William Penterman, R-Columbus, says the proposal combats teacher shortages through a “2+2” model.

“This creative approach combines two years of teaching preparation coursework with two years of hands-on student teaching, ensuring that educators are well-prepared for the challenges of the classroom,” Penterman said.

Teacher shortages can be defined as not enough for a given discipline, or as a numeric whole. The Department of Public Instruction does not say how it is short.

Three years ago, a department report said math, English, English as a second language, special education, and art teachers were the most in demand.

The report said not enough college students were enrolling to become teachers. It identified only 54% of prospective teachers able to pass the required Foundations of Reading Test.

Penterman said teacher apprenticeships give young people both the classroom knowledge and practical experience.

“The shortage of qualified teachers has reached critical levels, impacting our classrooms, students, and communities,” Penterman said. “This shortage is exacerbated by the escalating costs of higher education, which have deterred many aspiring educators from pursuing careers in teaching.”

Education advocates also back the apprenticeship plan.

“Teachers with more hands-on experience, greater connection to their communities, and less debt are more likely to stay in the profession,” Institute for Reforming Government Vice President Chris Reader said. “Teacher apprenticeships increase quantity, quality, stability, and diversity of teachers and this will make high-quality teacher apprenticeships possible in our state.”

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