Brown Deer — Considering all the power tools, it’s relatively quiet on the sprawling Brown Deer High School shop floor. Small crews of students — mostly boys, but a few girls — are stationed around the room, measuring pieces of wood, sawing, drilling.
Teachers Craig Griffie and James Peter move from post to post offering suggestions on technique or explaining the science behind a particular process.
Griffie and Peter arrived at Brown Deer on circuitous paths. College-educated with backgrounds in construction, they were brought in last school year under the state’s emergency licensing procedure designed to help districts temporarily fill a critical vacancy.
Griffie has since received an “experience-based” license for technical education teachers approved by the Legislature as part of the 2015-17 biennial budget, and Peter is awaiting his.
The state has issued 19 such licenses to date. Now school districts are asking lawmakers to expand that alternative to cover a host of other hard-to-fill vocational education subjects, from business and marketing to agriculture, child care and culinary arts.
Critics, including the state Department of Public Instruction, the state largest teachers union and university schools of education have raised concerns, saying the measure will lower the bar on teacher standards and create an uneven licensing system across the state.
District officials point to the critical shortage of tech and vocational education teachers, saying they need the flexibility to lure experienced professionals to the classroom or discontinue popular courses that prepare young people for work or continued training at the state’s technical colleges.