Career and College ReadinessTeacher Shortages

MREA, Members Advocate on Bills for Para Program, Concurrent Enrollment and Mental Health Services

By April 8, 2016 No Comments

MREA and its members advocated for three key bills last week that would help address the increasing teacher shortage, respond to the Higher Learning Commission’s concurrent enrollment changes and provide enhanced mental health services. On overview of each bill is below.

Para to Teacher Program

The Senate E-12 Committee on Thursday heard a bill that would create pathway to be licensed in special education teaching for current paraprofessionals.

SF2370 authored by Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), would establish a pilot project in partnership with Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, Minnesota, the surrounding school districts, and the Southwest-West Central Service Cooperative.

This program would be available online, on evenings, and weekends to allow paraprofessionals to continue working while gaining the additional credentials.

This is an MREA bill that was considered last year and had strong support in the Senate, but did not make it into the final education bill. Sen. Bonoff chairs the Higher Education Committee in the Senate.

This bill addresses the teacher shortage crisis and could be scalable and expanded in the future if the pilot goes well. Southwest Minnesota, like many rural areas of the state, is facing a severe shortage of teachers, especially in special education.

The bill was well received at the Senate hearing. Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter, who has led the charge, testified in support and asked committee members to strongly consider this proposal since the cost is minimal with a potential gain of 50 teachers in special education at the end of the first cohort. She is a professor at Southwest State and former MREA board member.

Concurrent Enrollment

Both the Senate’s E12 Committee and the House Higher Education Committee heard a bill on concurrent enrollment in response to the Higher Learning Commission’s decision to change the teaching requirements.

The Commission announced last fall it would require concurrent enrollment teachers to have at least 18 graduate credits in their content area.

In response to this mandate, Lakes Country Service Cooperative, Northwest Service Cooperative and Minnesota State University–Moorhead presented a legislative proposal (HF 3326/SF 3062) to cover the cost of heavily discounted graduate credits for teachers taking a 12-month online cohort of classes through MSU-Moorhead.

Rep. Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls), chair of the Higher Ed in the House, and Sen. Kent Eken (D-Twin Valley), who sits on the Senate’s Higher Ed Committee, are carrying these bills.

The MnSCU Chancellor’s office released information on its efforts to continue Concurrent Enrollment in the face of the HLC clarification of credentialing requirements for high school teachers. The Chancellor encourages all MnSCU colleges and universities to continue to work with high schools to take the steps necessary to meet the concurrent enrollment instructor credentialing standards. View the MnSCU Update.

Mental Health

A bill that would bring more mental health services to schools around the state was heard in the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee last Wednesday.

HF 2731/SF 3294, would add several million dollars each year to School Linked Mental Health grants that assist school districts across the state in paying for professional services not readily available in school settings. It is authored by Rep. Jim Davnie (D-Minneapolis) and Sen. Melissa Wiklund (D-Bloomington).

Luther Heller, Superintendent of Montevideo, testified in support and MREA provided a letter of support. View letter of support

The bill has not had a hearing in the Senate.