Minnesota’s new PELSB took major actions on Friday during a nine-hour meeting, including moving forward draft educator licensing rules, selecting an executive director, and disapproving two Greater Minnesota para-to-teacher programs.

The day began with public interviews for the board’s Executive Director position. The board voted 8-2 to move Interim Executive Director Alex Liuzzi forward in the hiring process.

The PELSB Board authorized the Interim Executive Director to revise the final rules draft as they directed and send it to the Governor’s office.  This starts the process for a formal hearing and final rules adoption. The hearing is tentatively scheduled for June 8.  On this timeline “with no bumps,” Luizzi estimated rules would be adopted by late August.

Speech Language Pathologists

The new state teaching board discussed its proposed rule for new Speech-Language-Pathologists (SLP) and clarified that all teachers, including SLP, with current five-year standard licenses will be grandfathered into Tier 4 licenses.

MREA Executive Director Fred Nolan testified on the shortage of SLP teachers in Minnesota. He proposed requiring a bachelor’s in speech language pathology or communications disorders for Tier 2, a bachelor’s degree and 24 graduate credits in speech language pathology or SPED and a Master’s degree for Tier 4.

Melissa Lonsky of Family Speech & Therapy Services LLC, and president of Minnesota Speech and Hearing Association (MNSHA), then testified in opposition to any Tier 2 or bachelor’s level licensing for new SLP’s stating that under-trained and untrained teachers should not be documenting IEPs.

After some discussion, the PELSB board directed that in the final rules draft the following:

  • No Tier 2 SLP licensure
  • Tier 3 requires a Master’s degree
  • Tier 4 requires Master’s degree with three years successful teaching

In the discussion, the use of SLP assistants (SLPAs), discretionary variance requests to PELSB starting in 2019, and tele-therapy were offered by board members as responses to the SLP shortage.

Deny Licensure Programs

At the end of the long day, Winona State University and Southwest Minnesota State University appealed the PELSB disapprovals of their para-to-teacher SPED licensure programs.

In both cases, the review panels assembled by PELSB to judge the applications determined that one or more teacher licensing standards were not met in these non-conventional programs.

Both Dean Tarrell Portman of Winona and Dr. Matt Loyd of SMSU alleged bias and lack of communications in the non-conventional SPED program approval process.

PELSB affirmed the staff recommendation to disapprove the programs, but will allow the programs to reapply within a year.  This will mark the fourth try at approval for both programs.