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Teacher licensing overhaul heads to Dayton, but whether he’ll veto it is unclear

By Christopher Magan

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Kimberly Baker’s fight to get a permanent teaching license may soon be over.

For years, Baker has been trying to get the Minnesota Board of Teaching to issue her a license that reflects her training and the work she did in Iowa before relocating to Minnesota. So far, even after Baker won the backing of an administrative law judge, the board has turned her down.

If Gov. Mark Dayton signs a bill overhauling the way Minnesota credentials educators that was sent to him Tuesday by the Legislature, Baker might have a better chance.

“I appreciate the high standards in this state. I take my profession very seriously,” Baker said Tuesday while on a break from the classroom at Riverview Elementary in Farmington where she teaches on a temporary license. “I think (Dayton) needs to consider the out-of-state teachers who have the coursework and past licenses and make it more accessible for them.”

With a 76-54 vote in the House followed by a 36-31 vote in the Senate, the Legislature approved a bill Tuesday that supporters say will do just that — calling it the biggest update to teacher licensing rules in decades. It would consolidate work now done by the Board of Teaching and the state Department of Education that many critics call confusing and unfair.

The bill would create a Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board that would credential teachers in a four-tiered system based on their qualifications and experience. It would also streamline the licensing process for educators trained out of state and in unconventional ways while increasing the transparency around decisions to deny a license application.

Education advocates hope overhauling the licensing system will make it easier for school officials to fill a growing number of vacancies in key fields such as science, math and special education and for career and technical high school courses.

“This proposal raises the bar for our teachers and candidates for the classroom,” Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, who co-chaired the committee that finalized the bill, said before the vote. “It is innovative and it is reform.”

Erickson, a former educator who once served on the Board of Teaching, noted the bill went through 45 different iterations and was the subject of more than 25 meetings and a thousand hours of discussion and debate.

Dayton’s signature is not guaranteed.