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Report: 'Broken' licensing system is worsening MN teacher shortages

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Sweeping changes have been proposed by Minnesota legislative auditor to fix the state's "broken" teacher licensing process.

In a report released Friday, the auditor found the current system where two organizations – the Department of Education and the Minnesota Board of Teaching – split responsibility for licensing is confusing and makes it difficult to hold people accountable for decisions.

The problems are contributing to the teacher shortage in Minnesota, with the auditor finding "Minnesota’s complex and frequently changing licensure requirements further complicate finding appropriately licensed teachers."

The report calls on the legislature to streamline the process by consolidating responsibility for teacher licensing under a single entity, rather than two. If that's not possible, it wants at the very least the two organizations to clarify who's responsible for what.

The laws themselves need re-writing too, with the auditor finding "statutes use undefined terms or use the same term to identify different types of teacher licenses."

This, when coupled with regular law changes made by the legislature, makes "it difficult for BoT board members, MDE licensing specialists, and teacher candidates to understand Minnesota’s teacher-licensure requirements.

It calls for a streamlined process for out-of-state candidates to improve the state's ability to fill teaching positions, after some candidates told the auditor they needed "a firm understanding of Minnesota education laws to know how to apply and what is needed."

Changes unlikely this year

The Star Tribune notes some teachers have said they were sent on "a never-ending path to get licensed in the past years," despite having extensive experience of teaching in other states.

But Sondra Erickson, who chairs the state House Education Innovation Policy Committee, told MPR major changes probably won't happen this year as the elections are going on.

"The analysis has to, as I said earlier, be thoughtful and it has to involve some deep thinking, and that takes time," she said. "And we're moving into a campaign season when legislators think about other things than probably major changes, so I do want to go very slowly."

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