House alternative teacher licensure bill believed to be on fast track

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
“I think the bill is on the fast track,” said Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, lead Democrat on the House education committee.

House education committee Chairman Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, is carrying an alternative licensure bill that would allow eligible individuals to acquire a two-year, limited-term teaching license in Minnesota.

“This does not solve every single problem,” said Garofalo, though adding that passage of alternative licensure is a critical part of the education reform agenda.

“This bill does not require any school to hire any teachers — it gives the choice, the flexibility, and the option,” said Garofalo.

Supporters of alternative licensure testified at the House Education Reform Committee Jan. 13.

Minneapolis Ward 5 City Council Member Don Samuels spoke in favor of allowing nontraditional teachers from groups like Teach for America teach in state classrooms.

“They really believe all students can learn,” said Samuels, who represents a North Minneapolis city ward.

Daniel Sellers, executive director of Teach for America Twin Cities, said he scratches his head in wonder as to why some people are trying to make it harder for the organization to place teachers in classrooms.

Supports Teach for America
Greiling supports the program. “I love Teach for America,” she said.

Greiling depicted the teachers — enthusiastic young people in vital career fields, but with little or no teaching experience — coming out of Teach for America as top notch.

She likes the fact that some 32 percent of the teachers are people of color, as where people of color make up only about 4 percent of the current state teaching corps.

But Greiling supports an alternative licensure bill carried by a St. Paul DFL lawmaker over Garofalo’s, arguing Rep. Carlos Mariani’s bill would tie other alternative teacher groups to university or college programs.

The Teach for America Twin Cities partners with Hamline University.

Garofalo’s legislation is too lenient in this area, she explained. Still, Greiling believes the differences can be smoothed out.

Garofalo is optimistic that an alternative teacher licensure bill will pass the Legislature this session. Garofalo is one of the lawmakers carrying such legislation in the House.

Indeed, she believes Dayton wants to quickly move on the legislation to show he can work with Republicans and Education Minnesota, the teachers’ union.

Greiling is only worried that Dayton will be too willing to agree on education policy items prior to the budget debate and come up “dry on (education) funding.”

She does not anticipate swarms of alternatively licensed teachers entering Minnesota classrooms should a bill be signed into law.

Instead, she views a modest number teaching such subjects as math, science and special education.

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