Unqualified Teachers Still Teaching

This article tells the story about how unqualified teachers are ruining Minnesota’s education system:

More than 900 Minnesota teachers over the past five years have violated licensing rules aimed at making sure that children get a proper education, including 62 instructors who taught with no license at all, according to a Star Tribune analysis of state education records.

The violations, which mostly involved instructors teaching the wrong subject or grade level, touched as many as 57,000 students in some 300 public school districts and charter schools across Minnesota, records show.

This year, DFL pundits like Karla Bigham said that this legislature would be known as the ‘education legislature’. While it’s true many of these violations happened on Gov. Pawlenty’s watch, it’s equally true that the DFL just repealed the Basic Skills Test requirement that the GOP legislature instituted. Gov. Dayton, meanwhile, signed both the requirement and the repeal.

Here’s the heart of the problem:

Despite the widespread problems, Minnesota does virtually nothing to enforce its rules. The state Board of Teaching stopped enforcing licensing violations several years ago, state officials said, partly because of the threat of costly lawsuits and time-consuming court hearings. Revoking a single license can cost close to $20,000.

Why should teachers who don’t have a license have a day in court? There should be a clause in the contract that says teachers who don’t have a license are automatically and immediately terminated. It isn’t like they don’t know the rules. After all, they sought the variances and waivers that let them keep teaching.

The total number of waivers and other exceptions granted by the state Teaching Board more than doubled over the past five years, reaching a total of 9,785 in the 2009-2010 school year, state records show. At the same time, the number of improperly licensed teachers dropped more than 40 percent.

“Districts have the ability to paperwork their violations down to zero by applying to the [Education Department] for variances,” Phillips said in the e-mail to her staff. “The teachers would still be teaching without the appropriate grade level or subject area licensure, but the variance would eliminate their inclusion in the year-end [Education Department] report.”

This isn’t just a black stain against unqualified teachers. It’s a stain against EdMinn and the administrators who sat on their thumbs and let these charlatans keep teaching.

Jeff Riley, according to the state, was not among the violators.

But the trained chef said he worked at Broadway High School in Minneapolis for six years without obtaining a license — a step that proves instructors have passed tests and met other requirements to show they’re qualified to work in the classroom. Though the Minneapolis School District dismissed him in December for working without a license, Riley never received a warning from the state about his licensing problems.

“We weren’t hidden,” Riley said. “People knew about us. We had a great program.”

How can something be a “great program” when it’s filled with unlicensed teachers? Mr. Riley is apparently a self-confident man. Self confidence isn’t a job qualification. It’s a character trait.

More importantly, how is it possible that entire groups of unlicensed teachers exist? Who thought it was a good idea to ignore the students’ needs? This isn’t a little thing. This is an example of the education establishment setting education policy that says they’re concerned about the teachers, not the students.

These are just the symptoms of a bigger problem. The underlying problem is that Education Minnesota has run the schools and school boards seemingly forever. That type of unchecked authority leads to corruption. I suspect that’s what happened here.

Comments welcome at Let Freedom Ring.