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Reader's view: Minnesota should streamline teacher licensure system

Duluth and Northeastern Minnesota are not immune from some troubling statewide trends: 70 percent of Minnesota school districts report they struggle to find qualified special-education teachers, and

43 percent report it will be “difficult” or “very difficult” to find qualified math teachers­­. In addition, science openings go unfilled, and English language learner teachers are tough to find.

Meanwhile, Minnesota’s diversity gap between students and teachers is among the worst in the nation. Nearly 30 percent of our students are of color compared to just 4 percent of educators.

Yet, despite these significant challenges facing our state, experienced out-of-state teachers, teachers we should be welcoming and recruiting, face a cost- and time-prohibitive process when trying to transfer their licenses to Minnesota.

From being told to complete student teaching or redundant courses to hearing mixed messages from different licensing officials or teacher preparation programs, each year, literally countless experienced, out-of-state teachers can’t gain their Minnesota licenses.

Minnesota’s cumbersome, confusing and inconsistent licensing system does not honor the professional experiences of great educators — educators like a 10-year veteran literacy expert and a Harvard grad whose former students led the state in math.

These teachers want to work in Minnesota. And Minnesota schools want — and need — to hire them.

Thankfully, both the Minnesota House and Senate have included measures to streamline out-of-state teacher licensure in their omnibus education bills, and the differences currently are being ironed out in conference committee. Hopefully they’ll send a bill soon to Gov. Mark Dayton, and our state leaders will work to ensure that a reasonable and clear process is implemented quickly and properly.

We must streamline our state’s licensure system, honor teachers’ professional experiences and welcome, not deter, the educators our students need.

Daniel Sellers

Minneapolis

The writer is executive director of MinnCAN, a statewide education advocacy nonprofit (minncan.org).

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