Time to fix state teacher licensing

Last week the Legislature passed — and Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed — legislation designed to streamline and revamp a Minnesota teacher licensing system that Office of the Legislative Auditor says is broken and in need of significant changes.

The bill passed last week addressed many of the issues identified in the auditor’s report. It would have created a single state entity for issuing teacher licenses. Currently, the state Board of Teaching establishes the requirements for licensure, while the Minnesota Department of Education reviews license applications and decides who gets them. When you have two entities doing the same job, you get confusion, extra steps and lack of transparency. People seeking teaching licenses, especially experienced teachers from out of state, sometimes spend years jumping through a dizzying array of hoops to get their license, only to hit another wall.

Meanwhile, school districts keep searching for qualified teachers in certain areas like special education and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) areas.

Objections to the bill passed last week came from Democrats and education union officials who felt the new rules would lower teaching standards too much and let too many “warm bodies” — community experts who can be brought in to teach classes specific to their expertise. Their solution is to attract more and better teachers by providing more pay and better support.

Until the state addresses the problems in licensing teachers, there won’t be any bodies for some teaching positions. We hope a solution can be found for this problem before the final bell ends the session today.

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