Four teachers have sued the Minnesota Board of Teaching, accusing the state agency of routinely denying licenses to qualified teachers, many of whom are teachers of color or teach in hard-to-fill areas such as special education or English language learner instruction.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Ramsey County, claims the board routinely denies licenses to well-qualified candidates, often without explanation.

“Instead, the board makes ‘case-by-case’ determinations based on arbitrary and inconsistent standards,” the plaintiffs claim. “As a result, similarly situated applicants are rarely treated similarly, and there is never transparency. Indeed, the board often denies some of the most qualified applicants while granting licenses to less-qualified applicants, and all without explanation.”

Erin Doan, the board’s executive director, said the agency is willing to explain its statutory licensing requirements to any applicant who has questions.

She said the board has made several changes in recent years to streamline the licensing process and more are being contemplated this legislative session.

“This could be a very different landscape in a year,” she said.

The lawsuit comes as several education reform groups are pushing the Board of Teaching to clarify its licensing requirements.

The plaintiffs, which include a special education teacher with 12 years experience and a teacher licensed to teach English as a second language to students in Texas, say the board has also failed to grant licenses to qualified out-of-state teachers despite receiving a statutory directive several years ago to do so.

The lawsuit also seeks an injunction to force the board to issue licenses to candidates who meet state requirements.