Despite teacher shortage, another DFL bill adds roadblocks to licensure

Thousands of special education teachers, career-technical instructors, and educators of color would be negatively impacted by a DFL bill introduced in both the Minnesota House and Senate.

Nearly five years ago, and after a multi-year effort, the state’s complex and arbitrary teacher licensing system was overhauled with the adoption of a four-tiered licensure system. This helped provide qualified educators with alternative pathways to teacher certification and was a long-overdue step toward solving the complicated teacher shortage the state has faced more than once.

H.F. 1224 and S.F. 1477 would undo much of that progress and rebuild licensure barriers, possibly impacting up to 4,400 educators, “including thousands who had been promised full licenses after three years as provisional teachers,” reports The 74. “But many now would be forced to go back to school and re-earn their credentials at a traditional college of education in the state once their temporary license expires.”

Those most impacted would be the state’s highest-needs students, continues The 74. “Right now, tens of thousands of children with disabilities are not getting legally mandated pandemic recovery services because there are not enough teachers with the credentials to serve them.”

The proposed change could impact 2,000 special educators, a category of teachers in desperately short supply. A 74 analysis of newly available state data reveals that schools serving the children with the most profound and intense disabilities would lose the largest share of their teaching staff — many needing to replace two-thirds, or more. 

o In Minneapolis, a school for students with volatile behavior would lose six of its 10 teachers.

o A public charter school catering to autistic students would lose four of its six faculty members.

o Three rural multidistrict programs serving children whose needs are too specialized for their small, home districts would lose three-fourths of their teachers.

o A number of language-immersion schools and career-technical education programs could lose two-thirds of their teachers, while numerous schools where 90% or more of students are impoverished stand to lose 50% to 75%.

According to The 74, while the bill “would have an outsized effect on special education,” other educators impacted include instructors who are native speakers of Somali, Hmong and other languages spoken in immersion schools; career-technical instructors; and educators of color.

For Anthony Holloway, the bill changes are personal. “As someone who used this alternative pathway, I can tell you after spending five years in the classroom before getting my Tier 3 license, that anyone who chooses that path has earned their licensure,” he wrote in the Star Tribune. “We deserve our Tier 3 licenses because we are committed teaching professionals with years of certifications, evaluations, student outcomes and practical training to prove it.” Holloway is finishing his seventh year as a special education teacher in the Rochester Public Schools district.

The teachers’ union has fought to repeal most of the reformed system ever since it went into effect, which isn’t surprising considering the current system provides alternatives to entering the classroom outside of traditional colleges of education — colleges that the teachers’ union represents.

Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) Executive Director Yelena Bailey told The 74 that they “have had really good experience with people who did [traditional] teacher prep. People who have demonstrated mastery of professional standards tend to do better and stay longer.”

To Holloway, efforts by the Legislature and PELSB to “take away the licensure pathway I used” indicates “that teachers like me, who prove themselves every day, are not worthy of a permanent teaching license.”

Bailey’s claim about teacher prep programs, according to The 74, “is not based on any localized analysis of the proposed reform or the state’s teacher training landscape.”

Minnesota requires schools to evaluate teachers but does not compile or analyze the resulting data. Nor has it examined the effectiveness of its teachers colleges or of educators with non-traditional backgrounds who were licensed after the system changed in 2018. 

PELSB testified in February in support of a bill that would not require teacher candidates who complete a teacher preparation program to pass the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examinations (MTLE), which “are designed to help identify those candidates who have the level of knowledge and skills required to perform satisfactorily as educators,” according to the MTLE website.