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Board authority shift sought

Published (2/18/2010)
By Kris Berggren
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Rulemaking regarding teacher licensing is the purview of the Board of Teaching, which does not require legislative approval to adopt or significantly amend rules about how teachers are prepared to take charge of their classrooms.

Such rulemaking affects 650 licensure and credential programs offered by many of the state’s higher education institutions, said Karen Balmer, the board’s executive director.

The state’s Race to the Top application for a share of federal education grants includes a proposal to adopt a three-tier licensure system that could significantly shift current teacher licensure policies. That proposal is an example of substantive education policy decisions that should involve elected officials, said Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville). She sponsors HF2703 that would make the board’s authority to adopt new licensure rules or amend rules subject to legislative direction, as is the case with the Department of Education.

The House K-12 Education Policy and Oversight Committee approved the bill Feb. 18 and sent it to the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee. Its companion, SF2482, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood), awaits action by the Senate Education Committee.

Balmer supports the bill’s purpose to maintain transparency and communication between lawmakers and the board, but said there are practical and philosophical questions about the proposed change. For example, the session timetable could hold up rulemaking processes.

Greiling said she is open to grandfathering in rulemaking already in progress, which she’s discussed with Balmer, and that her intent isn’t to bog the Legislature down with minor rule changes or technical clarifications, but to promote discussion on oft-controversial issues such as teacher licensure and alternative teacher compensation criteria. Limiting such discussion to a state agency, Greiling said, is “not full involvement of all elected officials, which I think comes out with the best policy. It may not always be pretty, but in the end I think common sense is more apt to prevail when you have more viewpoints involved.”

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