“This is our No. 1 priority” is how Senate E-12 Education Committee Chair Charles Wiger characterized the nearly three hours of testimony Tuesday for eight bills addressing teacher recruitment and retention.
“The Teacher Shortage Act” heard by the Senate last week included a variety of efforts to address the state’s teacher crisis and attract and retain quality teachers. SF2513, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Dahle (DFL-Northfield), would create an electronic teacher job board, establish grants to student teachers in shortage areas, institute a paraprofessional pathway for teacher licensure, offer loan forgiveness programs, and expand Q Comp for all schools.
Sen. Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna) also presented a bill, SF2908, to address teacher recruitment and retention that would similarly fund loan forgiveness, teacher development and evaluation, and provide incentives for American Indian students to pursue teaching as a career.
Both bills advanced last week to the Senate Finance Committee after hearing from educators and administrators from around the state attesting to the growing shortage of qualified teachers in Minnesota classrooms.
MREA applauds the chairman for his emphasis, and thanks the Senators and House bill authors and education organizations such as MSBA, MASA and Education Minnesota for devoting time and attention to this issue. For rural Minnesota this crisis of teacher shortages has been building for several years.
When introducing SF 2513, Sen.Dahle observed that teacher shortages are a relatively new phenomena in Minnesota. When he was a new social studies teacher, he remembered it was hard to get a job as there were so many applicants. Now that is completely turned around. He described his bill as addressing some key issues with short-term and longer term solutions.
The Chief Author of the House Companion HF 3132 is Rep. Sondra Erickson, Chair of the House Innovation and Policy Committee. HF 3132 is scheduled to be heard Tuesday in her committee.
Testifying in Support
Crosby-Ironton Superintendent of Jamie Skjeveland testified in support of SF 2513. Crosby-Ironton anticipated 12-15 vacancies for the 2015-16 school year. In preparation, the district created a recruitment video, a brochure, and sent principals to college job fairs. The video and brochures alone cost $6,000. Superintendent Skjeveland shared the results were that the district received 19 applicants for 6 classroom vacancies, and 4 applicants for 4 special education openings.
Troy Haugen, Lakes County Service Coop Career and Technical Education Coordinator, supported SF 2513 as he shared that the number of community experts in CTE increases every year and there are no post-secondary programs in the state developing CTE teachers. “I hesitate to send my CTE teachers to industry internships for fear they will get hired away and never return to teaching.”
John Bartholow, a teacher from Hendricks, testified in support of the SF2908 and pointed out how important loan forgiveness was to recruiting teachers to rural districts. Amy Aho, special education teacher in Brainerd, also shared her support, emphasizing the need to cap caseloads.
Other bills addressing various aspects of teacher recruitment and retention introduced Tuesday include:
SF 2516/HF 2805 (Hayden/Fenton) – Grow Your Own to assist urban districts develop their own teachers
SF 2552/HF 2860 (Pappas/Moran) – Grants for programs to recruit under-represented teachers
SF 2981/HF 3291 (Jensen/Davids) – Teacher development tax credit for graduate class tuition
SF 2982/HF 3317 (Jensen/Davids) – Teacher expense tax credit
SF 2610/HF 2944 (Torres Ray/Mariani) – Recruiting teachers of color support
SF 3003/HF 3340 (Bonoff/Fenton) – Expansion of the CUE program grants for teachers of color