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Career and Technical Education licensure changes proposed

By Nick Longworth
Stephen Jones, superintendent of Little Falls schools and co-chair of the Career and Technical Educator Licensing Advisory Task Force, responds to a question during the Feb. 2 meeting of the House Education Innovation and Policy Committee. With him are Paula Palmer, the Education Department’s director of career and college success, and Troy Haugen, task force co-chair and CTE coordinator for the Lakes County Service Cooperative. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Attending a four-year college is often promoted as the traditional route for post-secondary education. But there’s a growing student demographic pursuing other options, which legislators are also trying to draw teachers toward.

The House Education Innovation Policy Committee reviewed a report Thursday from the Career and Technical Educator Licensing Advisory Task Force regarding career and technical education teacher licenses. These programs focus on career skills, such engineering, agriculture and auto mechanics. No action was taken.

“This is music to my ears. I have been talking about this for about 30 years” Rep. JoAnn Ward (DFL-Woodbury) said. “People recognize the shortages and needs that we have.”

The report found the CTE teacher licensure process is often redundant and unclear for incoming teachers. The current baccalaureate degree required for teachers is often cumbersome to acquire and is arguably not the best indicator of qualifications. Coupled with a nationwide teacher shortage, the current system creates hardships for districts trying to attract qualified candidates to a growing range of programs.

“Quite honestly, we wish we could offer more,” said Stephen Jones, the task force co-chair and superintendent of Little Falls Community Schools. “College prep should be a key part [of education], but for some it’s career prep; that’s our challenge.”

The report suggests changes to the requirement for CTE teacher licenses, offering an alternative tiered-qualification system rather than the rigid baccalaureate degree. Minnesota would allow two-year college institutions to provide CTE-related content in teacher preparation programs.

A work group should be created, according to the report, to ensure forward progress, including the creation of incentives for eligible institutions to provide alternative teacher preparation outside of traditional credit-based ones, and providing sustainable funding for agencies responsible for licensing.

“Unfortunately during tough [financial] times CTE programs are the first that get cut,” Jones said. “We have to get past that.”

Although the problems are obvious on the outside, one sweeping solution doesn’t appear in sight.

“How can we shorten the timeframe to make an impact?” asked Rep. Barb Haley (R-Red Wing). She suggests further creating a pathway to combine people who have a desire to teach, but also industry experience.

“We want to look at ways to sustain and invigorate the quality of instruction to students, and find new ways to increase the talent pool to offer courses,” said Paula Palmer, director of career and college success for the Department of Education. “There is no simple, quick fix to this.”

“It’s really the start of a conversation,” Jones said. “It’s imperative that we begin these conversations at a deeper level.” 

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