Teach for America suffered its second setback in three weeks at the state level when the Minnesota Board of Teaching voted Friday to deny a group license variance for the teacher trainee organization it has granted for the past four years.

The board’s 8-2 vote means that individual districts and principals will need to fill out applications for a variance from the normal requirement that a teacher be licensed. The board consists mostly of teachers and other educators appointed by the governor..

The decision raises the possibility that some Teacher For America corps members will not have a variance they need to be before students by the first day of class, said Crystal Brakke, Teach for America’s Twin Cities director.  She called the decision “disheartening.”

But her predecessor, Daniel Sellars, went further.  “It’s unconscionable that many Board of Teaching members allowed politics and their allegiances to the teacher’s union to keep highly effective teachers from teaching in high-needs communities,” said Sellers, now the  executive director of The Minnesota Campaign for Achievement Now.

“We’re going to facilitate this as best we can,” said Rose Hermodson, an assistant commissioner of education.
The group already has 72 corps members teaching in the metro area, and hopes to add 43 more this fall. Thirty one already have been offered jobs.  Most any are with the Minneapolis district or charter schools.  Some of those charter schools start classes well before Labor Day.

The group sustained another blow last month when Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a $1.5 million biennial appropriation that would have allowed Teach For America to add 25 more members.

The variance is granted to allow the corps members to teach while working toward licensure at Hamline University, which Brakke said most achieve before the end of their two-year stint.  Some board members questioned granting a group variance without independent review of the variance candidates.

Corps members are paid the same rate as other beginning teachers, and given five weeks of intensive summer training before they start in classes.