Republican state House members criticized the Minnesota Board of Teaching on Thursday, saying that the board is delaying the implementation of new rules that would make it easier for out-of-state teachers to work in the state.
The Legislature earlier this year tweaked a 2011 law to include a January deadline for the Board of Teaching to draft new rules setting clear licensing requirements for teachers who hold certifications from other states. The recent legislative change, which took effect in July, was intended to address the board’s slow action on the matter, House Republicans and other advocates said.
“Over the past four years, we have seen what I believe is a lack of urgency in action by the board to address this issue,” said House Education Finance Committee chairwoman Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie. “It is disappointing and concerning.”
A group of teachers in April sued the Board of Teaching, saying the board has ignored the 2011 legislative directive and has been subjectively granting teaching licenses. Partly because of the lawsuit, the Legislative Auditor is also now examining the board’s implementation of rules, as well as its consistency, transparency and timeliness in approving licenses. The outcome of that review is expected in February.
Officials from the Board of Teaching, an appointed body that sets and maintains teacher licensing standards, disputed characterizations that it has delayed implementing the law.
Executive Director Erin Doan said Thursday that the recent delay was not intentional, but the result of some bureaucratic confusion. “We did not know we received erroneous information,” he said.
Doan said, however, that legislators need to provide more clarity on what processes it is expected to streamline — the application process or licensing requirements.
“No one has defined what a streamlined process is,” Doan said. “We keep hearing, ‘You’re not doing anything.’ Maybe another thing you can do is define for us what is that streamlined procedure.”
Legislators heard from two teachers who detailed their yearslong efforts to receive full licensure in Minnesota. The two women secured their teaching licenses only after hiring an attorney to navigate what they said was an excessively complicated and expensive process.
School district officials at the hearing Thursday urged legislators and the board to act quickly.
Hinckley-Finlayson School District Superintendent Rob Prater said “there’s a drastic teacher shortage” and told legislators that his district has difficulty in recruiting teachers. Those efforts could be helped with clearer licensing procedures, district officials said.