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SAINT PAUL- The Minnesota School Board Association has named Representative Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) a 2016 Outstanding Legislator of the Year. This award is presented by MN School Board Association to legislators who have shown outstanding leadership in advocating on behalf of students. Sen. Kevin Dahle (D-Northfield) was named as well because he and Erickson authored the Teacher Shortage Act.
Rep. Erickson chairs the Education Innovation Policy Committee in the House of Representatives.
Erickson said that every year it gets harder for districts to find teachers in a variety of subject areas, including special education and ELL. She has encouraged teacher preparation programs in higher education institutions to better align teacher production with district demand by following the data reported in the bi-annual report of Minnesota Teacher Demand and Supply. “Not every student needs to major in elementary education,” she said.
In 2015, Rep. Erickson traveled the state to listen to possible solutions to concerns raised by superintendents and school boards regarding the growing teacher shortage in rural Minnesota. As a result, Erickson and Dahle, in partnership with MSBA and other education leaders, developed the Teacher Shortage Act, comprised of policies that could be implemented almost immediately.
In addition to an expansion of the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, a one-time grant program will provide low-income student-teaching stipends to help offset expenses while student are enrolled in an approved program that prepares them to become teachers.
“It is hard for colleges to place student teachers in very rural areas because of the additional cost of housing and transportation; this stipend should help alleviate that,” Erickson said.
“Sen. Erickson’s willingness to be the chief author of the Teacher Shortage Act — and actively promote and pass much-need legislation — demonstrated great leadership,” said Grace Keliher, MN School Board Association's Director of Government Relations. “We applaud Sen. Erickson’s effort to ensure that local school board members’ voices were heard at the state Capitol.”
The Teacher Shortage Act also approved a Statewide Educator Job Board for use at the Board of Teaching, which will ensure that all districts and charters have access to all candidates seeking teaching jobs and administrative positions. The act also instituted an annual report from the Collaborative Urban Educator Grant Program that includes the graduation rate for each cohort, placement and retention rates, and other program outcomes.
“This report could provide important data about how successful these programs are in recruiting teachers from our minority communities,” Erickson said.
"I am honored to receive this award from the MSBA because it points to the cooperation that exists between the Senate and House when it comes to solving certain educational issues. Both Sen. Dahle and I are educators, so we understand how critical it is to have a great teacher in every classroom of every school, district, and charter.”
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