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Education Minnesota president makes Park Rapids stop

Education Minnesota president Tom Dooher addressed legislative issues with Park Rapids teachers this week. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

A proposed state bill that would lower standards to become a teacher in Minnesota was of concern to a crowd of Park Rapids teachers Wednesday.

Education Minnesota president Tom Dooher visited Park Rapids Wednesday afternoon to update Park Rapids teachers about legislative activities and field questions.

He encouraged educators to continue writing to state legislators about their concerns. He was scheduled to speak in Bemidji Thursday evening and was able to stop in Park Rapids on his way.

One of the main issues on the legislative table is a bill that would lower the standards to become a teacher in Minnesota, Dooher said.

Specifically, the House bill would:

• Allow people with a bachelor's degree, but no previous teacher training, to obtain a limited license to teach for two years in a public school.

• Give these individuals full control of a classroom after only 200 hours of training and passing standard teacher entrance tests.

• Allow a school site evaluation team to recommend these instructors for full licensure at the end of the two years.

• Not require a teacher or administrator to be part of that evaluation team.

• Allow programs such as Teach for America to expand in Minnesota.

Dooher said that Education Minnesota believes that this isn't enough training to prepare teachers for a job in the classroom.

"We need to make sure that education remains a priority and we continue to have the best-trained teachers," he said.

The bill also aims to place alternatively prepared teachers in schools where students are struggling and the achievement gap is an issue. At least one major study has shown a negative impact on student achievement from alternative licensure, he said.

Another bill would reform school employee health insurance.

The proposed legislation will save school districts nearly $200 million in the first 3 1/2 years, Dooher said.

A nonpartisan state study of the statewide health insurance bill found that it would save school districts millions of dollars, he said.

State Rep. Laura Brod (R-New Prague) requested the local impact study by the Minnesota Management and Budget office. A local impact study is done to calculate the cost of proposed legislation to local units of government.

The study found the bill would result in major savings for school districts:

• January 2011 - June 2011: $10.63 million saved

• July 2011 - June 2012: $22.96 million saved

• July 2012 - June 2013: $59.69 million saved

• July 2013 - June 2014: $96.95 million saved

Dooher addressed a question from the audience about a dropout prevention program that was started in Park Rapids. The program was largely successful but funding was cut before follow-up work could be done. Teachers questioned why the funding was cut.

"As resources go away, those programs are the first to go, which isn't right," Dooher said.

He said Education Minnesota needs to continue lobbying for programs that are working.

Another teacher asked if there will be changes in the standardized testing time.

"I am hopeful," Dooher said. "Right now, it's not apples to apples. We're comparing this year's third graders to last year's third graders and that doesn't work."

He would like to have testing show growth from year to year. Too much testing isn't helpful either, he said.

"It's common sense. More testing doesn't make a student smarter," Dooher said.

These issues will continue to be addressed at the state and federal level, he said.

Dooher said he will meet with a committee this weekend to discuss who Education Minnesota should endorse for governor.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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