MN teachers’ union still pulling political strings to re-erect licensure barriers

Education Minnesota — the state’s teacher union — is continuing its fight to convince legislators that important parts of the state’s much needed reformed licensing system should be repealed. Undoing changes to the previously complex and arbitrary system risks exacerbating the teacher shortage and negatively impacting educators of color, special education teachers, and career-technical instructors.

But as bills bent on reinstating licensure barriers continue to make their way through the legislature, Minnesota Democrats are putting support of the teachers’ union “ahead of equity, need for teachers,” writes Evan Ramstad for the Star Tribune.

This is bad on the macroeconomic level. As I’ve said since I started as a columnist, Minnesotans need to make it easier to hire people, not harder.

It will also probably hurt efforts to diversify the teaching base, still one of the most lopsidedly white professions in the state.

People of color now account for a mere 6% of all teachers in the state. But that’s up from 4% before establishing the new system.

The Minnesota Association of School Administrators told the Star Tribune school districts support sticking with the new system. “They can point to really wonderful teachers who were able to get a teacher’s license in a different format than perhaps people are used to,” says Deb Henton, executive director of the MASA.

As I wrote here, it isn’t surprising Education Minnesota has fought to repeal most of the reformed system ever since it went into effect, as it allows educators to enter the classroom using alternative paths outside of traditional colleges of education — colleges that the teachers’ union represents.

School administrators, charter school principals and teachers hired through the alternative paths all spoke in support of the current system during a House committee hearing on March 29, reports Ramstad. “No one spoke in favor of the [licensing system] changes, but the House committee approved the bill the next day anyway.” (We are seeing this a lot this session — legislation moving ahead despite little public support.)

In response to public testimony that prospective teachers of color would likely be harmed by these changes, “legislators replied they would create other programs to recruit them,” continues Ramstad. The state’s current recruitment program for teachers of color “brought in just six last school year,” according to a recent Star Tribune report.

Why are DFL legislators against a current system that is bringing teachers of color into the profession? Because the teachers’ union is against it. As Ramstad so aptly concludes: “Either do what Education Minnesota says, or see its endorsements and campaign contributions go to someone else.”