By Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — A major political struggle over Minnesota teachers came to an end today, even though the fight may not be over.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law a bill that creates alternative paths into the teaching profession. Supported by President Obama, and many education leaders, it is opposed by Minnesota’s teacher’s union.

And it’s a dramatic swipe at what some believe is Minnesota’s number one school problem: a wide achievement gap for students of color.

“It is Minnesota’s dirty little secret,” said Brian Sweeney, director of Charter School Partners, an advocacy group. “That we have the nation’s second highest achievement gap. We can no longer be in a state of denial.”

The law is aimed at helping to close that gap and help reduce expected future teacher shortages. The bill allows non-traditional teachers to enter schools without a traditional teaching license to bring different, often younger, teachers to struggling schools and measure what happens.

Elated Republican leaders consider it a major victory and the chairman of the House Education Finance Committee high-fived Dayton after the bill signing.

“It’s a victory for the kids,” said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington. “This is not a Republican or a Democrat win or a loss for anyone else. This is good for the school children of Minnesota.”

Signing the bill, Dayton broke away from strong Democratic interest groups, including Minnesota’s teacher’s union, which claims the bill weakens classroom standards.

But Dayton says it’s only one part of a bigger school reform package.

“This is a beginning. And it’s only a beginning,” said Dayton. “I’m just as committed to seeing every other part of the ingredients that are necessary for successful learning throughout our state.”

Dayton said he’ll be introducing bills this week for voluntary all-day kindergarten, early childhood education and more school funding.

Minnesota’s teacher’s union, Education Minnesota, says alternative licensing will mean lower standards for classroom teachers.

In a statement last week, Education Minnesota president Tom Dooher said:

“Education Minnesota is disappointed and concerned that our state may soon lower the standards for entering the teaching profession. Minnesota’s students and families deserve only the best-trained teachers in their classrooms, but the alternative licensure proposal before the legislature this week does not do enough to ensure that high quality. The key to better teaching does not lie in making it easier to become a teacher. Our society does not address issues relating to doctors, attorneys, electricians or any other professional in such a manner”.

Comments (24)
  1. Tom VandenBosch says:

    Go Minnesota! Go Governor Dayton!

    1. ouida says:

      Yes, all these well educated teachers that can’t teach. Go figure. It’s about time something changes in the stagnant pool we call education.

      1. BW says:


        How about you go ahead and get that teaching license the easy way then, and we can sit down and see how how your students are progressing compared to a professional teacher who worked there butt off in school to get to the same location. Let us then look at the HARD facts and see if making it easier to become a teacher is going to narrow the achievement gap.

        1. Marcus says:

          I am guessing a teacher, trained or untrained, who knows the difference between “there” and “their” may be a good start in helping children.

  2. Citizen Tom says:

    Of course another way that we could reduce the “achievement gap” would be to have our top kids lower their test scores. Mississippi, here we come!

  3. Rachel White says:

    Another way to close the acheivement gap would be to fund education and to hold parents accountable for raising their children. For example…maybe if kids had bedtimes, ate dinner and breakfast, and had parents who actually valued education our gap would close.

  4. David says:

    “Minnesota’s teacher’s union, Education Minnesota, says alternative licensing will mean lower standards for classroom teachers.”

    Really? How high are those standards now ?
    We have been throwing money time and time again at education, yet it is never enough.

    Maybe it is the fact that this new bill will create competition for teaching jobs. And if that is the case…it’s about time.

    1. Erik says:

      I agree completely with David. I often wonder what would happen if Teachers Unions had to compete with another Union. I suspect competition would lead to better results for the kids in the long run by forcing weaker teachers out of the system.

  5. Murph says:

    Don’t expect a rush of applicants! Those kids will chew them up and spit ’em out!What other nonsense is the GOP going to come up with? Rupert Murdoch is a nasty deranged soon to be 80 year old Australian dingo! Hope he dies like Limbaugh will ,filled with poop that Oxycontin and Vikodin turns to cement in their rotten guts! Hey,but aside from that,what else could go wrong? Too bad they have fire hoses in Hawaii or Rush would have been retired last year!

    1. Viki says:

      Your lack of civility sickens me. Try debating issues with respect and tolerance. I am doing that RIGHT NOW!

    2. NOPE says:

      You dont have anything smart to say so you attack! grow up!

    3. Tom says:

      Murph – You are to be pitied!

  6. Kelly says:

    What about PARENTS? They should be equally held accountable. As an educator, it is very frustrating when you don’t have the parent teaching their children how important education is. Maybe parents need the new evaluation system… not the educators.

  7. Katie says:

    How is making it easier for people to get teaching positions going to fix our problems in education? You’re telling me that these students are going to get MORE QUALIFIED teachers than myself and the 120 other Graduate students in my licensure program at the University of Minnesota [who have spent AT LEAST 5 years at the U, and in elementary classrooms, not to mention THOUSANDS of dollars], because we’re making it easier for others to get jobs.

    Alternative ways to receive a license will NOT duplicate the experience I have gotten through my education, but I’m assuming it’ll be cheaper to hire the less experienced, alternatively licensed teachers. This means these alternative teachers will be hired over my colleagues, so students will have teachers whom are less than qualified to instruct them. The only reason the achievement gap is going to decrease is because our academic growth as a whole is going to decrease as well. Sounds like a perfect solution to our problem.

    1. As jack said says:

      Here Here Katie! As an mid career student that this bill is suppose to target, this bill can too little too late for me to take advantage and I’m glad it did. I am also in a graduate/initial license program at one of the private colleges were much of my classroom time requires me to have my experience in schools where achievement suffers. I came from a corp. manager background prior to teaching, hold two B.A.s and a two minors. People, the business efficiency rhetoric that is being held up as model does not apply in teaching. Teaching is not about making widgets and highest output for the cheapest cost. Students are people not a product. They come to the classroom each with their own strengths and barriers to learning success that need to be overcome.

      It was the educational courses that I am required to take that helped me to develop strategies to help students get through those barriers for the greatest possible chance for success. Unlike the business world, you can not fire a student if they don’t reach the mark. You can not cast them aside as if they are some sort of defective product to be charged off the bottom line.

      Unfortunately because of my academic background, basically too much education in which my compensation is determined, it is unlikely that I will be hired in Minnesota since superintendents are under pressure to save money by hiring the cheapest teacher they can find. Also, there are no shortages of qualified candidates for teachers. Most positions that come available often have as high as 300 applicants who already have at least 3 years experience teaching via substitute positions and many hiring superintendents are already familiar with the candidates through this process. So what exactly this law is suppose to address is a fallacy

      1. As jack said says:

        Sorry for the dropped letters time for a new key board 😉

  8. KG says:

    Look at the lowest achieving schools in our state. It’s their lack of resources, funding and family involvement that is creating this achievement gap. You could place the best teacher in the world into the lowest achieving classroom, but if they have ZERO resources and support, there is no way that these students will have the means to make adequate yearly progress.

    We need to look into funding the schools that have little to no resources. Instead of taking the funding away from failing schools, we need to place a bigger emphasis on helping them succeed. You need to create a SUCCESSFUL and SAFE environment for teachers and students. That doesn’t happen by changing the demographics of the staff. Making it easier for some bum off the street to come in and teach the classroom isn’t going to help the school.

  9. mike says:

    I can’t believe what this government is doing now. I voted for republicans in the last election, because in our area they were the new people on the block and I thought some things would get better. What a joke! Who did you people consult with before you voted for such a rediculous bill? Did you look to see what a qualified teacher has to go through to become a teacher? Did you go to a school and visit with the good qualified, caring, hard working teachers and get an idea of what the problems in our schools actually are? I don’t think so, because if you had you would be going at this in a different way. I just can’t believe it!!!

  10. whereismydesk says:

    Where do I sign up!…I will teach the children! If I am not good enough fire me…but atleast give me a shot at it…could it get any worse than it is?

  11. whereismydesk says:

    Let some of us young adults (who were promised so much when we were in high school) to give back and do what we can! We were screwed out of a future by bush! There were 3 jobs for every student when I was going to college, by the time I was graduated there were/are none!

  12. teacherintraining says:

    I don’t think that people with a B.A. degree (plus a little) can’t be good teachers. I’m sure they could be wonderful, but the idea that they aren’t recieving a full education in their particular area of teaching concerns me. What does this new law say about teaching as a profession? It doesn’t really show me that we care about our students like Rep. Pat Garofalo stated above. It screams of desperation in my ears. Are we so desperate for teachers that we will allow those who haven’t went through a full teacher education program to step into the classroom and all of sudden become “qualified” to teach? What makes a qualified teacher anyhow? Apparently a B.A. and a little extra?….I just wonder.

  13. Courtney says:

    As a high school student, I understand a lot of how we learn and what good teaching methods are. Last year, I had a teacher in Biology and it was her first year teaching at a school. She was only 25 but she related to the students more easily which made everyone feel comfortable with her and everyone learned a lot and did good in her class. Other teachers, however, who have been teaching for a long time and have the same curriculum and don’t bring anything new to the table don’t understand what helps us learn better. I think this is a great idea because new teachers have new ideas and a few of them are bound to be successful.

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