Final Countdown: Update on Minnesota’s Teacher Licensure Overhaul
By Daniel Sellers
I’ve been working on reforming Minnesota’s broken teacher licensure system for nearly a decade, so forgive me if I’m a little giddy: In exactly one month, on July 1, 2018, the law creating Minnesota’s new tiered licensure system for teachers will fully go into effect. The law, which the Legislature passed and Gov. Dayton signed in 2017, should finally bring clarity and certainty to current and aspiring teachers across the state and country, and the Minnesota school leaders seeking to hire them. The ultimate goal is to make sure that Minnesota students have access to the great teachers they need.
Since the bill was signed into law last year, a lot has happened. And, a lot more still needs to happen to ensure that the licensure overhaul will have its intended impact on students.
WHAT HAPPENED WITH REQUESTS TO DELAY IMPLEMENTATION
During the 2018 legislative session, the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board urged legislators to push back implementation of the new law, giving the Board more time to write and finalize rules. While legislators considered various extensions and deadlines, they ultimately sent a bill to Gov. Dayton to give PELSB until Sept. 1, 2018 to finalize rules, and to establish default rules should PELSB not meet this deadline. We felt that this was a fair proposal; it balanced PELSB’s request for additional time with calls from educators and advocates to implement the new tiered teacher licensure system as quickly as possible. However, Gov. Dayton vetoed the bill containing this provision, meaning PELSB received no extension.
WHAT’S (STILL) GOING ON WITH RULEMAKING
Therefore, even though PELSB will begin issuing new tiered licenses next month, the Board will still be going through the state’s required rulemaking process. As part of that process, PELSB will hold a hearing on Friday, June 8 with an Administrative Law Judge. More information about the hearing, along with directions for individuals and organizations to submit formal comments, can be found on PELSB’s rulemaking webpage.
In February, an ALJ directed PELSB to restart its own rulemaking process, rather than adopt rules that the now-defunct Board of Teaching had written. Since then, our team and partners have regularly met with PELSB staff and board members, and we believe that they have made some major improvements to address many of our comments and concerns on the rules. However, there are still several unresolved issues with the latest proposed, permanent rules, Draft 3 of RD4534. At next week’s ALJ hearing, we’ll testify to share our lingering concerns, which we also submitted in formal comments.
WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE PELSB EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SEARCH
In addition to monitoring rulemaking, we also need to ensure the right people are in place to implement the law. Earlier this spring, EdAllies organized dozens of partners to attend stakeholder interviews for PELSB’s search for an Executive Director. In part because of our collective feedback—which encouraged PELSB to focus on finding a candidate with the skills, experience, and equity mindset Minnesota students deserve—PELSB decided to re-open its search and launch a second round of interviews. The Board eventually selected its interim Executive Director Alex Liuzzi as its permanent leader.
THE BOTTOM LINE
What this all means is that starting on July 1, 2018, even though PELSB won’t yet have formal rules in place, Minnesota will have an entirely new system to license current and aspiring teachers. As implementation kicks off and rulemaking moves forward, EdAllies will continue to serve as a watchdog to ensure Minnesota treats teachers fairly and in accordance with the new law.
Of course, there’s much more work to do to make sure that Minnesota students have access to the effective teachers they need. Our recent brief, “Great Teachers for All Minnesota Classrooms: Progress & Next Steps,” explains recent policy changes and investments to strengthen Minnesota’s teacher pipeline (including an overview of the new tiered licensure system), and possible next steps for advocates, practitioners, and policymakers.
At EdAllies, we’re excited to take these next steps to achieve our ultimate goal: a great teacher leading every Minnesota classroom. However, we’re still committed to making sure the steps we’ve already taken are working. If you are an educator, aspiring teacher, principal, or fellow education stakeholder, please reach out right away if you hear of issues related to the new teacher licensure system once it goes into effect next month. Our goal is, and always has been, removing barriers facing excellent educators seeking to teach Minnesota students. So, if barriers remain, we want to know.