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Bill would grant 21-minute increase in teacher prep time requirements

Effective student engagement in a classroom can be based on effective teacher preparation. But mandatory meetings and other job requirements often eat into a teacher’s preparation time that may affect the quality of instruction and academic progress of students.

Demands on prep time have increased, said Alyssa Halvorson, a teacher at S.G. Reinertsen Elementary School in Moorhead. A lot of her time is spent in meetings to discuss individual plans, evaluations, and student supports. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the situation with increased demands from more anxious and stressed students.

“We cannot be the teachers our students need us to be without time to prepare,” she said.

Rep. Heather Keeler (DLF-Moorhead) sponsors HF3926 that would increase preparation time from about 45 minutes a day to about 66 minutes a day. It would do so by changing the requirement of five minutes of prep time for every 25 minutes of instructional time to every 17 minutes of instructional time.

Preparation time would be required to be provided in one or two uninterrupted blocks during the student day, with exceptions by mutual agreement between the district and the exclusive representative of the teachers.

The House Education Finance Committee held the bill over Wednesday for possible omnibus bill inclusion. Its companion, SF4067, sponsored by Sen. Mary Kunesh (DFL-New Brighton), awaits action by the Senate Education Finance and Policy Committee.

“Prep time is not really about teachers, it’s about students,” said Kate Schmidt, an elementary school teacher in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District.

Preparing lessons has changed over time with the influx of students with varying needs and abilities. Planning for five different learning levels takes more time, said Schmidt, who is also president of Dakota County United Educators.

The demands on teachers’ time have made it difficult for grade level and subject level teachers to address student learning challenges effectively, she said

Providing increased preparation time means hiring additional part-time teachers, said Nancy Antoine, principal at Bridgewater Elementary School in Northfield. Hiring additional help is not easy given the workforce shortages and that affects the budget, too, she said.

Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) expressed concern that including preparation time in the collective bargaining process, as the bill would do, could be harmful.

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