Judge finds Minnesota Board of Teaching in contempt of court
ST. PAUL -- A Ramsey County District Court judge says the Minnesota Board of Teaching is in contempt of court and must pay a fine for failing to process an application for teaching licenses through a portfolio system.Judge Shawn M. Bartsh ruled J...
ST. PAUL - A Ramsey County District Court judge says the Minnesota Board of Teaching is in contempt of court and must pay a fine for failing to process an application for teaching licenses through a portfolio system.
Judge Shawn M. Bartsh ruled July 1 that the Board of Teaching was not fully complying with her Dec. 31 order to resume licensing educators by allowing them to submit a portfolio of their qualifications and work experience.
The ruling came after a group of teachers, many of whom were trained out-of-state or in alternative programs, filed a lawsuit in 2015 arguing that the state’s system for licensing educators was unfair and convoluted.
In February, the Board of Teaching reopened the licensing-by-portfolio system. But by April, Bartsh was asked to hold the board in contempt because it created a new pre-application process and had not allowed at least one educator to apply for a teaching license with a portfolio.
Teacher Joan Dobbert tried to apply for a teaching license through the portfolio system in January, but the Board of Teaching did not respond to her application within the 90-day window required by state law, the ruling said.
Nathan Sellers, attorney for the teachers, said the ruling shows Bartsh is “fed up with the board’s intransigence.” Sellers noted that a court “sanctioning a state agency is a rare occurrence.”
Bartsh’s contempt order also requires the Board of Teaching to pay more than $7,000 in fines and attorney’s fees.
Erin Doan, executive director for the Board of Teaching, declined to comment on the ruling.
Doan has noted that Minnesota’s system for licensing educators has confusing lines of authority.
The Board of Teaching establishes the standards that educators must meet to get a license. The Minnesota Department of Education makes initial decisions about license applications and the board handles appeals to those initial rules.
Bartsh’s ruling says Doan acknowledged during an April hearing that there had been “miscommunication” between the Board of Teaching and the Department of Education after the portfolio licensing system was re-established.
A recent report by the state Legislative Auditor found Minnesota’s teacher licensing system to be overly complex without clear lines of authority. The report recommended moving all licensing actions under one state agency.
Minnesota faces a growing shortage of teachers in key specialties, and the state’s licensing system is seen as a hurdle to schools hiring qualified educators. After several unsuccessful attempts to fix the system through legislation, state lawmakers recently established a task force to make recommendations for a complete overhaul.
Minnesota also has been working for years to establish alternative pathways for qualified educators to get into the classroom. The state licensed more than 500 educators through a portfolio system between 2004 and 2011 before ending the program for financial reasons.