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Education committee considers changes to the teacher licensure system

HF1376 would modify the state's teacher licensure system in place since 2018. House Photography file photo
HF1376 would modify the state's teacher licensure system in place since 2018. House Photography file photo

Since the state’s current teacher licensure system went into effect a few years ago it has been a source of ongoing discussions.

Some laud its impacts, saying it’s improving teacher diversity and helping address the industry’s workforce shortage. Others contend it has lowered standards to make the system easier to navigate.

The conversation continued Monday, with HF1376, sponsored by Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope). The bill was held over, as amended, by the House Education Policy Committee Monday, with plans to resume member discussion and questions Friday. There is no Senate companion.

The current system went into effect in 2018, creating four tiers of teacher licenses. The goal was to simplify the process, create different pathways to enter the profession, attract out-of-state teachers, and, ultimately, address the state’s teacher shortage.

“During those three years there has been constant engagement and analysis to determine what is working and what can be improved,” Frazier said. “This bill works to stabilize the areas and provide clear and thoughtful pathways into the profession and proposed changes to address the barriers.”

The bill would modify the system through a variety of technical and substantive changes, including:

  • limiting renewal of a Tier 2 license to two renewals, and requiring participation in cultural competency training and mental illness training for all renewals;
  • allowing unlimited Tier 2 renewals for community and technical education teachers;
  • eliminating licensure exams as a requirement for Tier 3 licensure;
  • eliminating a pathway that would allow a Tier 2 licensed educator to advance to a Tier 3 license through three years of coursework and evaluations; and
  • broadening exemptions for a bachelor’s degree requirement in certain subject areas if other criteria are met.

Opponents say the proposal would reduce teacher retention and harm efforts to further diversify the workforce. Additionally, Rob Scripture, principal at Rochester Public Schools, noted lower tier pathways don’t equate to less effective teachers. Instead, they allow districts to offer specialized courses or hire qualified educators for difficult-to-fill positions.

“I worry that creating all these different layers and all these different barriers make it really challenging to get teachers,” Scripture said. “We can teach you how to teach math, and teach you how to teach reading, but I can’t teach you to have a passion for kids.”

Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) said that while the bill contains “many good things,” he also has “some major concerns and questions,” regarding changes to pedagogical exam requirements, eliminating pathways for Tier 2 teachers to advance to Tier 3, and possible worsening of the teacher workforce shortage.

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