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”.