Wave of new bills aim to address CTE shortage

Wave of new bills aim to address CTE shortage

(Minn.) Lawmakers in Minnesota are reworking the state’s teacher licensure system from the ground up in a bipartisan effort to address long standing teacher shortages in career technical education.

Two Senate bills–one that would establish a tiered licensure system with a new governing board, and another that creates a fast-track credentialing program–have been introduced and referred to committee. Now, a bill moving quickly through the House seeks to develop an alternative teacher preparation grant program.

Every state has reported a shortage of teachers to various extents, especially in subject areas such as special education, mathematics and science. In Minnesota, a report released earlier this year by the state’s Career and Technical Educator Licensing Advisory Task Force found that shortages of CTE teachers most often plague programs focused on medical careers, construction, manufacturing, communication technology and agriculture.

In order to help school districts fill those positions, legislators have proposed a number of avenues to create more opportunities for industry professionals to transition into teaching without going through what some lawmakers and teacher advocates agree is an overly-complex credentialing process.

One plan which has received bipartisan support would create a four-tiered teacher licensure system following the recommendations made by the state legislative auditor as well as a Legislative Study Group on Educator Licensing last year.

Tier one teaching licenses provide districts with extreme teacher shortages the ability to hire on staff for one-year duration without a cap on how many times the license could be renewed. Such licenses are specifically aimed to help fulfill teacher shortages for career and technical education. The Minnesota Department of Education has expressed concerns that schools may be able to place an unlicensed, unqualified person in the classroom indefinitely due to the lack of a cap on renewals.

Tiers two and three are for teachers who are working towards obtaining permanent status in the fourth tier. The third tier targets the state’s current issue of not granting Minnesota teaching licenses to out-of-state teachers in a transparent or timely fashion.

In addition to creating a tiered system, S.F.4–sponsored by Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake– would replace the Board of Teaching with the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board. The Board of Teaching currently jointly issues teacher credentials with the state education department.

The new board would be required to consist of nine members, five of which must be current teachers. Of those, at least one must work in a charter school, and at least one must work in a subject area or region facing an educator shortage. The other four positions must be filled by one superintendent, one elementary or secondary school principal, one district human resource director and one member of the public or school board member.

A second Senate bill, S.F. 1046, would require state colleges and universities to develop flexible two-year credentialing programs for industry professionals to quickly transition into hard-to-staff CTE classrooms. Prospective teaching candidates would be eligible for the program if they hold an associate degree or industry recognized, professional credential in a content-specific career and technical education field; and if they have five years and a minimum of 5,000 hours of verifiable work experience in their field.

The bill follows recommendations made by the Career and Technical Educator Licensing Advisory Task Force, which found that many industry professionals are reluctant to enter the teaching profession due to strict teacher licensing rules in the state. Because Minnesota teachers must have a bachelor’s degree to get licensed, for example, people in fields such as nursing or automotive technology who only hold a two-year degree may be turned off.

Under a House bill awaiting an education finance committee hearing, the commissioner of the Office of Higher Education would be required to establish and administer a program annually awarding grants to eligible alternative teacher preparation programs that are working to fill subjects with shortages.

H.F. 1663 would require grant recipients to use the money to expand their alternative teacher preparation programs to other licensure areas identified as facing shortages; establish professional development programs for teachers who have obtained teaching licenses through alternative teacher preparation programs; or boost recruitment and training efforts focused on building up racial and ethnic diversity among the teacher workforce.