News

How to fix a teacher shortage

By Christopher Magan, Pioneer Press
March 4th, 2015

Education leaders debate changing the state’s teacher licensing requirements

teachers-shortageMinnesota faces a growing shortage of teachers in key specialties, and educators and policymakers are divided over how to attract and retain qualified teachers.

Administrators argue that Minnesota’s strict licensing requirements and union rules make it difficult to attract and retain highly effective and diverse teachers. Teachers union leaders say that state law already gives schools flexibility and that the rules Minnesota has now ensure students get the best teachers possible.

As lawmakers debate ways to address the state’s teacher shortage, some worry the proposed changes could lead to risky unintended consequences. Complicating the debate is state data on Minnesota’s teaching force that sometimes paints a conflicting picture of the hurdles and shortages described to lawmakers.

Despite the attention they draw, teacher layoffs are rather rare. At the height of the recession, less than 2 percent of Minnesota’s teaching force was cut, although in a system that emphasizes seniority those cuts typically fall on the youngest teachers.

Minnesota’s process for licensing teachers is often criticized as convoluted, but the number of teachers from outside the state being licensed has more than doubled since 2010, state data shows. Nevertheless, those licenses are nearly all temporary, with most recipients being required to take tests or training to receive full licenses.

Next page: A controversial proposal