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Last year, Gov. Dayton signed a bill into law that required teachers to pass a basic skills examination after the GOP passed it without DFL help. This year, with majorities in both parts of the legislature, the DFL appears poised to gut the GOP’s reform. Rep. John Ward, (DFL- Brainerd) introduced HF0171 early this session.

The language in the bill Gov. Dayton signed into law said that “The board must adopt rules requiring a person to pass a skills examination in reading, writing, and mathematics as a requirement for initial teacher licensure. Such rules must require colleges and universities offering a board-approved teacher preparation program to provide remedial assistance to persons who did not achieve a qualifying score on the skills examination, including those for whom English is a second language.” That’s exceptionally straightforward. Compare that language with the language proposed by Rep. Ward:

The board must adopt rules to approve teacher preparation programs. The board, upon the request of a postsecondary student preparing for teacher licensure or a licensed graduate of a teacher preparation program, shall assist in resolving a dispute between the person and a postsecondary institution providing a teacher preparation program when the dispute involves an institution’s recommendation for licensure affecting the person or the person’s credentials. At the board’s discretion, assistance may include the application of chapter 14.

That’s language only a special interest group leader would propose. (Think Tom Dooher, licensed lobbyist and president of Education Minnesota.) That language could mean anything to anyone. The language in Rep. Ward’s legislation doesn’t require that people teaching high school calculus have a masters in math and a minor in education. That’d be heading teacher qualifications in the right direction.

What’s worse is that Rep. Ward’s legislation doesn’t include the same requirements as Sen. Bonoff’s legislation. Here’s what’s different in Sen. Bonoff’s legislation:

The board must adopt rules requiring a person to pass a skills examination in reading, writing, and mathematics as a requirement for initial teacher licensure, except that a person who is a nonnative English language speaker as verified by qualified Minnesota school district personnel or Minnesota higher education institution faculty and who directly instructs in that other language or provides world language instruction under section 120B.022, subdivision 1, in that other language may take and pass the skills examination at any time up to 36 months after becoming otherwise eligible for an initial teaching license and may hold a temporary teaching license during that time. Such rules must require college and universities offering a board-approved teacher preparation program to provide remedial assistance to persons who did not achieve a qualifying score on the skills examination, including those for whom English is a second language.

The important question Rep. Ward’s constituents should ask is whether his vote is for his constituents or for Tom Dooher.

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