Teacher licensure bill advances in Senate; Concerns about teacher quality raised

A bill to revamp the state’s Board of Teaching and create a tiered educator licensing system was debated and passed by the state Senate on April 20. The Senate language was included in the E-12 education finance bill that passed in late March and will replace the House licensure language on House File 140.

The bill also seriously changes the alternative teacher preparation provider requirements, making it easier for an alternative program, such as Teach for America, to be established in Minnesota. These changes could threaten teacher preparation quality. Concerns include elimination of student teaching requirement for alternative preparation candidates, mandatory teacher prep program approval with minimum educator standards, and removal of higher education partnership requirement.

Four tiered licensure areas are designed with licensure qualifications, duration, and renewal set up. The bill provides parameters for design and implementation of the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) and removes the MDE licensing function and places it all with a new board – a change which has bipartisan support. The Board of School Administrators will remain a separate entity to license school administrators. The PELSB will shrink from 11 to nine members and include two administrative members. Teachers will make up the majority of the board membership. The higher education member is eliminated, even though the board is tasked with approving teacher prep programs. No current Board of Teaching member can be a member of the new board. No teacher member may hold a position with the union.

Several concerns are cited with the tiered system in this bill. The bill allows for unlimited renewals for Tier 1 licenses, with no incentives to move on to higher levels of licensure. The licensure board is also required to grant a Tier 1 license at the request of the school or charter board. Furthermore, years served in Tier 1 cannot be counted towards continuing contract rights. This sets up a process for individuals with no teacher training or pedagogy to teach for as long as they want in a Minnesota school.

The bill also requires licensure candidates to participate in school district’s mentorship or teacher evaluation programs, which is a positive requirement. However, many districts don’t have mentorship programs and they would need money to implement one.

Changing the alternative teacher preparation program requirements threaten program and teacher quality. The Senate DFL is committed to providing quality teachers for Minnesota’s future generations.  (SF4)