For the second time in a year, the state's Board of Teaching is under fire for failing to operate its alternative teacher licensing program.
On Friday, Ramsey County District Judge Shawn Bartsh found the state agency that licenses teachers in contempt of a previous court order for failing to let a plaintiff submit an application for an alternative teacher licensing program and not responding to her. It comes after a December ruling that said the Board of Teaching broke the law when it failed to operate the program that licenses out-of-state teachers and those looking to expand licenses.
An April motion from plaintiffs including Joan Dobbert said that Dobbert hadn't been able to apply for the alternative teacher licensing program. The December ruling mandated the Board of Teaching bring back the program and start accepting applications.
The court found the Board of Teaching did not allow Dobbert to submit an application for licensure via portfolio until after the motion was filed, didn't respond to her about submissions in January and didn't get back to Dobbert's inquiries regarding her wish to apply for licensure via portfolio.
"The Court does not take the granting of sanctions lightly and would far have preferred Defendant to simply follow the law," the contempt order said.
Board of Teaching executive director Erin Doan noted that the way teacher licensure activities have been governed and comprehended "has been muddied by confusing and conflicting statutes and administrative rule." State law divides duties for the alternative program, called the licensure via portfolio process, between the Board of Teaching and the Minnesota Department of Education.
"The Board remains committed to working with the Minnesota Department of Education and the teacher licensure study group of the Minnesota Legislature to clarify jurisdiction and governance of the teaching profession in the coming months," she said in an email Tuesday.
The contempt order brought up the miscommunication between the Board of Teaching and MDE which "resulted in Plaintiff Dobbert never being contacted regarding her application," according to the Board of Teaching at a May hearing.
The Board of Teaching declined to comment directly on the order because of pending litigation.
Rhyddid Watkins, an attorney for Dobbert and the other plaintiffs in the case, said he doesn't understand why the Board of Teaching is "so steadfastly refusing to follow the law."
"It's unfortunate for teachers and, more importantly, it's unfortunate for Minnesota students who are being deprived of the best qualified teachers," he said.
A group of teachers filed suit in April 2015, saying that the Board of Teaching arbitrarily rejected teachers' licenses for years.
In March, the legislative auditor's office called the teacher licensing system broken and pointed to large reforms as potential solutions. At a March hearing, the Board of Teaching and the Minnesota Department of Education said they would work to fix the process.
As a result of the contempt order, the Board of Teaching has to pay Dobbert $250, attorneys' fees of about $6,800 and costs of approximately $100.
"This Court's patience is at an end," the contempt order said.