POTOSI, Wis. — Southwest Wisconsin educators are hopeful that a proposal to facilitate the process by which instructors can become licensed to teach across state lines will assist recruitment efforts and ease a longstanding shortage.

The proposal, Assembly Bill 195, and a companion Senate bill are in committee and have the backing of local lawmakers, including state Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, and Rep. Todd Novak, R-Dodgeville.

“This would provide a pathway to get those people who may have grown up in Wisconsin back into our state,” Marklein said.

A 2016 report from the Learning Policy Institute found that between 2009 and 2014, enrollment in teacher education programs decreased by 35% — from 691,000 to 451,000 each year. And demand has increased — from 260,000 hires in 2014 to about 300,000 in subsequent years.

Increasing the flexibility with which teachers can teach in other states could assist Wisconsin districts — particularly those in rural areas — that are challenged to attract quality staff.

Currently, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction must issue a teaching license based on reciprocity to a teacher who holds a license in good standing from another state if the individual taught under that license outside of Wisconsin for at least one year.

The bill requires the DPI to issue a license based on reciprocity to a person who holds a teaching license in good standing from another state if that person teaches in Wisconsin for at least two semesters and the school district or charter school confirms that the applicant’s teaching experience was successful.

Other measures contained in the bill include a stipulation that the DPI must issue a lifetime teaching license if the applicant successfully completes six semesters of teaching.

The current system adds unnecessary hurdles, paradoxically making it harder for a Wisconsin teacher to obtain an in-state license even if they are currently teaching at a Wisconsin institution, said Jamie Nutter, CESA 3 agency administrator. The organization provides professional development services to 31 school districts in southwest Wisconsin.

“As we’re facing the teacher shortages and as we’re trying to recruit and retain people, we’re trying to get as much flexibility as we can,” he said.

Ron Saari, superintendent of Potosi School District, also supports the proposal. He said the district hires many graduates from Clarke University in Dubuque.

“Anything that we can do to make it easier for teachers to come from another state would be beneficial,” he said.

While Illinois has teaching license reciprocity with other states, Iowa requires applicants to meet state requirements.