Minnesota’s teacher licensure system has been described as confusing and complex.
Sponsored by Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton), HF140 would overhaul the existing system by consolidating the licensure authority, creating a new tiered licensure system and conforming existing statutes for clarity and consistency. The changes are the result of a March 2016 report by the Office of the Legislative Auditor.
“The recommendations found rather disturbing confirmations of what many of us already knew,” Erickson said. “This has been a journey. It has been a team effort putting this together.”
Approved Tuesday by the House Education Innovation Policy Committee, which Erickson chairs, the bill now heads to the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee. Its companion, SF4, sponsored by Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake), awaits action by the Senate E-12 Policy Committee.
Proponents see the 51-page proposal as long overdue and a step in the right direction toward simplifying the licensure system as a whole for potential teachers.
“We’re really happy to see that a number of the recommendations that were made have made their way to the bill,” said Erin Doan, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Teaching.
However, concerns arose over specifics regarding the proposed governing board’s composition and how the transition of power would occur, as well as requirements regarding a proposed tiered licensure system.
New board, one license source
Under the proposal, the Board of Teaching would become the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board. Its creation would be a transfer of power from the Board of Teaching and Department of Education.
“We need to regain the confidence that our teaching candidates want in a governing board,” Erickson said. “To restore this reputation, we need a new creation.”
The board would be tasked with evaluating qualified licensure candidates in accordance with state verification requirements. A “licensure-by-portfolio” process would allow candidates to submit portfolios demonstrating teaching and content competence. All candidates would be required to pass an examination of general teaching knowledge and licensure-specific skills.
The board would also adopt rules for both licensing a teacher in a field different from their primary one, and the grade level that a licensed teacher is eligible to teach.
It would consist of 11 members appointed by the governor, including six current teachers. The governor would also appoint an executive director to act as the chief administrative officer of the board, but not as a member.
Some, however, would like the board to have a much broader composition, including professionals from service industries such as social workers and psychologists.
Concerns also arose over the date in which a mandated board turnover would occur. Board of Teaching members, as of Jan. 1, 2017, would be terminated on Sept. 1, 2017, and barred from becoming eligible for appointment for four years.
“While we understand the desire for a fresh start, eliminating all 11 members at once will deprive the board of important institutional knowledge at a critical time of transition,” said Ryan Stromberg, human resources director for Spring Lake Park Schools.
“[C]onsider rolling appointments going forward given the amount of restructuring, and the number of demands for rulemaking,” Doan said. “A new board with zero institutional knowledge would seem to be an uphill challenge.”
The Board of School Administrators would perform background checks and help the licensing board publicly report school district data to the Legislature by Feb. 1, 2021, and each odd-numbered year after. Data would include statistics regarding the hiring of teachers in areas of shortage and a five-year projection of teacher demand.
The proposal would also create a new teacher licensure system.
A teaching candidate would be granted a license in a specific tier in accordance with requirements met:
Teacher licenses in effect on Sept. 1, 2017, would remain valid for one additional year after the date the license is scheduled to expire.
“The tiered structure will help qualified people enter the profession and contribute to the state’s long-term solution,” said Jim Bartholomew, education policy director for the Minnesota Business Partnership.
It’s argued the system would empower school districts to hire more teachers on one end and create uniformity across the state on the other.
“This is very much a work in progress,” Erickson said. “We want to make the best possible legislation we can provide for our professional educators.”