A snapshot of Minnesota’s teacher shortage: Where are all of the career and technical educators?

MinnPost photo by Erin Hinrichs
Amy Leivestad, far right: “I like designing things. I’m very creative, and sewing is fun.”

Last Friday afternoon, Sarah Colin’s classroom at West Junior High in Shakopee was humming. Hunched over her sewing machine, Amy Leivestad, 12, guided a connect-the-dots worksheet across the bobbin, watching a threadless needle puncture holes in it. She’s only a seventh-grader, but she already has an inkling that the skills she learns in this sewing class — where she’ll eventually learn to sew a pair of mittens, or a bag, or whatever other item she chooses to make for her final project — may come in handy later on.

“I could see this as a career,” she said, noting she’s already signed up for a design class, as well as an architecture class, for next year. “I like designing things. I’m very creative, and sewing is fun.”

Seated across the room, Shivani Muthya, 13, says she doesn’t plan to make a career out of her sewing skills. But she does find value in being able to express herself and in being able to fix things on her own.

“Gender roles sort of influence this,” she said, scanning the all-female room. “I wish we could break down the barriers and guys could take this without being ashamed.”

It’s the sort of thing Colin would like to address as well. But, more important, she’s interested in making sure students have an opportunity to explore trades within the Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) field — whether it be fashion and design, culinary work, interior design or more — while they’re still in middle school so they start to develop a sense of where their career interests lie.

That’s the premise for the district’s new academies model, which will go into full effect in the fall of 2018. High school students will enroll in one of six pathways that each have a different concentration, ranging from arts and communication to health sciences to engineering and manufacturing.

Colin’s says she’s fortunate to be working in a district that’s expanding its career and technical education (CTE) course offerings. Her pathway into the profession, however, wasn’t nearly as straightforward as she’s hoping it will be for her students. She graduated from St. Kate’s with a degree in fashion merchandising, planning to open a small boutique. After working for about nine months as a business analyst at Target, she decided the best way to get back to her passion for fashion was to become a FACS teacher. And that meant following in her mother’s footsteps.

Crisis beyond the exceptions

“Really, I never went into teaching originally because my mom was a teacher and I was just stubborn and didn’t want to do what she did,” Colin admits. [Full disclosure: I graduated a year behind Colin. We played basketball together and her mom, Beth Schneider, was our home ec teacher when we attended Shakopee Senior High.]

With her mind made up, Colin went back to St. Kate’s for an additional three years to take the required undergraduate FACS courses, while simultaneously working toward a master’s in education so she’d be licensed to teach. All the while, she worked as a substitute teacher in Shakopee to get her feet wet. Thanks to support from her family, she says, she completed school debt-free.

Shivani Muthya, 13
MinnPost photo by Erin Hinrichs
Shivani Muthya, background: “I wish we could break down the barriers and guys could take this without being ashamed.”

But not all schools, especially those in rural Minnesota, are having luck finding licensed CTE teachers to prepare students for some of the most in-demand workforce positions. This supply issue is multifaceted. For prospective teachers, it involves multiple barriers to licensure; for those who are qualified to teach, the lure of more lucrative industry positions often pulls them away from teaching.

As state lawmakers look to repair the state’s teacher licensure system wholesale, many are looking at ways to bring creative solutions to CTE licensure into the fold.

“It’s a situation we as a legislature need to address, or were going to have a serious problem with the workforce here in Minnesota. It’s definitely something that will affect our future workforce,” Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley, said in an interview. “I think right now we’re close to a very serious problem. Depending on your community, it’s an extreme problem for people.”

‘Took the back seat’

As exhibited by Colin’s sewing class, in many ways, the basics of some CTE classes haven’t changed much. Students are still learning how to thread a sewing machine and hand sew a button. But nowadays they’re also using Pinterest as a source of creative inspiration and being challenged to approach their work with an entrepreneurial attitude, coming up with their own final sewing and design projects.

No matter the program area — whether it be manufacturing, or information technology, or health science technology, or any of the other CTE program areas — teachers are challenged to stay current on evolving industry trends and technology.

But somewhere along the way, the trades programs lost momentum in the schools. Stephen Jones, superintendent of Little Falls, thinks the concerted efforts to get students college-ready, starting in the late ’90s, pushed programs like College in the Schools and PSEO to the forefront of the “college and career-ready” agenda. And CTE programs, he says, got lost in the mix.

“The hands on, blue-collar type skills, jobs preparation, kind of took the back seat while resources were funneled the other way,” he said. “What we’re seeing in this state is a reverse of that — not necessarily at the expense of college preparation, because we all know that’s still important — but finally we’re seeing the necessary emphasis return to CTE, where it should never have left. I think it’s refreshing.”

Current and projected workforce demands are largely responsible for bringing attention back to the need for CTE programs in secondary schools, so students are exposed to these career options early on. By 2020, 65 percent of all jobs in the U.S. will require some form of postsecondary education. Career and technical education certificates and two-year associate’s degrees can be a good fit for a number of students, enabling them to avoid amassing, say, $100,000 in college debt for a job that’s only going to pay something in the range of $30,000 a year, says Troy Haugen, a Perkins consortium leader who coordinates CTE program funding for 26 school districts in west-central Minnesota.

“These are not low-paying, dirty jobs. These are high-wage, high-demand positions,” Haugen said. “If students aren’t exposed to those at an early age, we’re just going to exacerbate our workforce shortage in the future. We’re just on the cusp of that, of our workforce shortage right now. And we’re already finding difficulty filling positions.”

Two of the main sectors that fit this “high-wage, high-demand” description, he says, are health care and manufacturing. Yet the number of skilled nurse aids, prepared to help take care of aging baby boomers and those with the skills to build, fix and maintain automated machines simply aren’t keeping pace with industry demand.

As schools look to expand their CTE course offerings, they’re coming up against a fundamental roadblock: The CTE teacher pipeline needs to be fixed.

Barriers to CTE licensure

In a recently published Minnesota Department of Education report, a CTE licensing advisory task force reported that roughly a third of CTE teachers are working in the classroom under a special permission license. These licenses are intended to serve as temporary placeholders while teachers work toward attaining licensure. In reality, though, they end up being misused as long-term solutions that present somewhat of an administrative headache and level of uncertainty for teachers.

One of the major holdups, as outlined in the report, is that all Minnesota teaching licenses require a four-year baccalaureate degree. This doesn’t align well with CTE industry standards, which often don’t require a four-year degree. When it comes to CTE-specific teacher preparation programs, the vast majority have been suspended or permanently closed, largely because enrollment in these programs had dwindled to the point where it was no longer financially viable to keep them running.

West Junior High teacher Sarah Colin, shown with her mother, Beth Schneider
MinnPost photo by Erin Hinrichs
West Junior High teacher Sarah Colin, shown with her mother, Beth Schneider, who taught home ec at Shakopee Senior High and now works as a long-term substitute for the district.

This presents a bit of a crisis, considering the state Department of Education predicts career-oriented teachers will be some of the hardest to come by, along with special education, science, math, English as a Second Language, early childhood teachers and more.

Even when CTE teachers acquire a four-year degree and teaching license, there’s still the possibility that they’ll shift career tracks and take a higher-paying job in the private sector.

Teacher retention, in general, is an issue that’s been getting lots of attention in recent years. The Minnesota Department of Education reports that within three years, a quarter of all new teachers leave the profession, with 15 percent leaving after just one year.

Alternative pathways to licensure

Both Haugen and Jones served on a legislative task force that looked at ways to help address the CTE teacher shortage through an improved licensure process.

“We still want high-quality teachers with a strong background. We’re just looking for alternative pathways to get to that high quality,” Haugen said. “We want the opportunity to look at licensure in a different way, in a meaningful way that’s more reflective of business and industry but does not necessarily say it’s of lesser quality.”

Clausen is authoring a bill that would allow those experienced in the trades an alternative pathway to teacher licensure. He says his proposal will prioritize certain credentials like an associate’s degree in the content area they want to teach, industry-recognised credentialing or licensure and a minimum number of hours of work experience. Those who meet these standards will be allowed to teach under the mentorship of a licensed teacher while they work toward licensure.

Rather than having to pursue a four-year degree, however, candidates would have the option to complete a two-year degree that would provide them with the fundamentals of teaching, like pedagogy and classroom management. This shift would bring the licensure requirements of secondary level CTE teachers more in line with licensure requirements of postsecondary CTE content instructors.

“We have people who certainly have the skills to teach the course. But they don’t have that teaching component,” Clausen said. “What we’re trying to do is meld those two together.”

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Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 02/09/2017 - 11:47 am.

    Lots of Minnesotans are not in favor of dumbing-down our teacher requirements and staffing, to the extent that we turn our schools into trade schools for skills that may or may not be around in ten years or more.

    Not requiring our grade and high school teachers to have been to college is the wrong way to go. Let manual laborers attend trade schools and take their chances (like all the unemployed manual laborers who used to work in factories and are now re-laced by robots).

    We need our public schools to educate our citizens in much more than how to sew a seam! Or even how to program a computer or do a house’s electrical wiring. Our kids need to learn to be able to think critically about lots of things, and for that we need teachers who, themselves, have some modicum of formal education in thinking and what our larger world is like.

    If businesses are out there looking for pre-robotic owrkers: let them not only pay them well (please! skilled nurse aids are not in a high-wage category. High demand, yes. But they get paid very, very badly.

    So do teachers (the guy at the Arizona charter school gets no benefits and he has no job security).

  2. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/09/2017 - 01:18 pm.

    One reason: The U of MN

    In the 70s & 80s the U would typically graduate out 20+ new “Technology Ed/Industrial Technology/Industrial Ed” teachers every year. They were rewarded with a new building on the St Paul Campus in 1981: everything they ever wanted for preparing new teachers: labs, classrooms, media facilities, offices. They were set for the next 50 years to prepare new teachers. The whole building also included Home Economics ED, Business Ed and Agricultural Ed. None of them are there today, the programs have vaporized. Why? A faculty obsessed with graduate programs and the specialized research interests of the faculty. Why would a Full Professor want to trudge down to a lab to teach a bunch of undergrads about manufacturing machines when you could travel to Brazil and research the vocational preferences of emerging native tribes and other such nuanced distractions. The under grad programs died on the vine and the graduate programs morphed into unrecognizable forms. The Home Economics faculty were so embarrassed by cooking and sewing that they just disbanded and ran for cover in other areas within the College of Education where they could find jobs. I was there at that time and I began my career as a CTE teacher. I learned first hand that these programs can start meaningful careers and launch new businesses after that. Yes, it was “shop class” and the students I taught were often not held in high regard by the unfortunate teachers who had to get these kids to sit still for an hour lecture on American History or whatever. When they came down to the shop, they went to work, they were active, involved and liked it. And many learned enough to decide they wanted more and went off to technical college and subsequent careers that grew our state’s economy.

    And now, we read here about the shortage of teachers in this area. The University of Minnesota, like all land grant institutions, has in their charter: “Teaching, Research and Service”. Incompetent, unaware and cowardly administrators who did not insist that teaching be a priority for every faculty member allowed undergraduate CTE to vaporize at the U of MN and it is a disgrace and a blatant failure of the U to serve the interests of the state.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/09/2017 - 01:27 pm.

    A former practitioner

    A colleague and I asked ourselves and each other that same rhetorical question 20 years ago (“Where are our replacements?”), and we were teachers in the Humanities, an area which nowadays gets dismissed out-of-hand as if it were unimportant.

    CTE is certainly on a par, and when I was an advisor to 20 or 25 kids every year, part of the task was to think about what post-secondary experience would fit that particular kid’s interests and demonstrated abilities. I can tell you that, even a generation back, there were plenty of high school seniors with no demonstrable interest in academic life who nonetheless felt that they somehow “should” go to college, though if asked, they couldn’t articulate a reason why. The current pressure to get a 4-year degree whether you really want one or not was already evident. One example is that I did my best to direct a smart redheaded girl into a furniture refinishing program at a local community college, rather than the nearest state university, because her stated goal was not an academic career: what she wanted to do was restore historic clothing and, especially, furniture, and she’d have been dynamite as a museum conservator. An art history degree wouldn’t have hurt her, but she was interested in the hands-on technical knowledge and skills of furniture refinishing, something she wouldn’t have learned at the university. Two decades and more later, I’ve no idea whether she reached her goal, but I thought it an admirable one on several levels, not least of which was her own recognition of what interested her and what skills she thought she could develop.

    Beyond that, however, I’m inclined to go with Constance Sullivan.

    Minnesota places too many hurdles in the way of prospective teachers, especially those trying to come into the profession here from another state, but I’m more than a little bit leery of both lowering standards too much in order to get bodies at the front of the classroom, and of catering too much to whatever skills-of-the-moment happen to be on the list of desirables for local employers. We’re more than a little schizophrenic about the former, making it very difficult for certified teachers from another state (or an accredited university) to get a Minnesota license, while at the same time looking for “creative” (i.e., less academically demanding) ways to bring teachers on board who don’t have much academic training. Being a highly-skilled and even creative electrician doesn’t automatically make someone a good teacher. If we deem those skills to be valuable to the society, we ought to be willing to pay that electrician to get the necessary teaching credentials.

    I’m old-fashioned enough to believe that schools ought NOT to be in the business of training dutiful employees. What we ought to be “producing” are citizens, first and foremost, and citizens with a variety of basic skills and knowledge that will allow them to carry out their responsibilities in the society, including adapting to changes in society as they happen, as well as to the different responsibilities that life and their future employers are likely to hand to them. To the degree that CTE is helpful in that role, I’m all for it, but I’m not at all enthused about using CTE as a rationale for producing several years’ worth of candidates for particular kinds of jobs that may well be obsolete and unnecessary by the time those students are in mid-career. There’s not much demand for wheelwrights nowadays…

    Years ago (pardon my exercise in nostalgia here), my school district in another state required girls to take a course we called “Girls’ General Shop,” wherein they learned to replace a light switch, put the spare tire on the family car if they had a flat, and so on. At the same time, all the boys had to take a “Home Ec” course that mostly focused on cooking, rather than tossing something into the microwave. Both were popular courses, despite the usual grousing about having to perform unfamiliar tasks that didn’t fit gender stereotypes. The boys were always proud to show off their cooking chops when they invited selected teachers to lunch, and the girls were similarly proud of demonstrating their carpentry and mechanical skills.

    Ms. Sullivan is quite correct about nurse’s aides. It’s not a high-skill, high-pay position. What does require considerable skill, and is thus paid well, is full-on nursing. Registered nurses have a demanding job, and make good money, which is one reason why many a medical establishment is eager to see nurse’s aides become the norm for hospital and clinic care. They know less, are not as well-trained, and cost a lot less than an RN.

  4. Submitted by Jeffrey McIntyre on 02/09/2017 - 04:23 pm.

    Technical Schools

    I live in a one stop light town, and every year the weekly newspaper publishes a special edition highlighting the graduating seniors. I was surprised, when I first moved here, that half of the graduates are going on to Technical schools to learn a trade.

  5. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/09/2017 - 04:40 pm.

    “Dutiful employees vs. career exploration”

    CTE at the secondary level has never had as its’ goal: “Here’s your high school diploma, you’re ready for the world of work”. One of my responsibilities was a 2 hour block entitled: “Vocational Metals”. One of the desired outcomes was to have my students say: “yes, this is of interest to me, I think I will go onto more welding/machining/casting/drafting in my future educational pursuits”. Not unlike the English teacher who inspires a student to seek out a degreee in English Literature. Our goals are essentially the same and it is somewhat elitist for the Humanities teachers to see their role as unleashing untapped human potential and mine as a shop teacher, getting a few more job apps for the local Chevy garage.

    I followed up my years in a secondary classroom with 3 years as a “teacher educator” (hence my above rant on teacher Ed.). And my opinion, after being immersed in teaching and attending classes in all manner of “professional teacher education” like Curriculum & Instruction, Educational Psychology, Learning Theory, Statistics for the Social Sciences, Educational Philosophy, etc… is that the merits of these to building a skilled teacher are greatly overrated. Due in large part to the simple fact that the individuals teaching these classes never had the benefit of a significant K-12 teaching experience. Most teacher Ed. programs seem to be a 50/50 balance of subject matter expertise and professional teaching education. Make it 90/10 and all will be fine. Especially when a competent mentor is available during the initial teaching experience.

    That is why I have no problem with”Teach for America” or other programs that take competent, subject matter experts and accelerate them into the classroom with out all of the teacher Ed. hurdles. Take an individual with a math degree, give them a semester of professional teacher ed, get them into the classroom for a semester of mentored and supervised “student teaching” and then launch them into a full time teaching job with continued mentoring and supervision.

    One of my most distinct memories of my teaching career is hearing the deadbolt go “click” as I exited my classroom on the last day of my first year teaching and I reflected that I was pretty much a mess for those first few months as I figured out the depths of the 13 year old mind; but, by the end I was doing a good job for my students, enjoying what I do and actually looking forward to that next September. That September to June improvement did not come from reviewing my Curriculum & Instruction book; but rather, from learning on the job and the mentoring from the other teachers in our department.

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/09/2017 - 08:58 pm.

      Agreed, mostly…

      “…it is somewhat elitist for the Humanities teachers to see their role as unleashing untapped human potential and mine as a shop teacher, getting a few more job apps for the local Chevy garage.” It’s more than “somewhat” elitist, and your English teacher analogy seems spot-on to me.

      “…the merits of these to building a skilled teacher are greatly overrated.” I couldn’t agree more. Good teaching is about interpersonal relations, which makes textbooks and instructions from a professor who hasn’t been in a K-12 classroom in 20 years, except an occasional visit, of limited value at best.

      I can’t agree about “Teach for America,” though I’m not hostile to the idea. It works for some people, but I don’t like it as a widespread approach by either school districts or state education bureaucracy. My granddaughter’s kindergarten teacher was a chemical engineer for quite a few years, grew disenchanted, and decided he wanted to do something “more important” (his words). He was marvelous with a room full of 5-year-olds who had attention spans measured in seconds, and for some of them, fractions of a second. Granddaughter’s 1st and 2nd grade teacher (the same person for both years) is a career teacher, and she is superb. Lately, elementary teachers are my heroes, now that I’m retired and have an opportunity to see what their classroom days are like. One of my student teachers, late in my career, had been a laboratory chemist for a dozen years before decided she wanted to teach. She was a pleasant and energetic woman who meant well, but she was never able to connect with the kids in the social studies classes she was student-teaching at my high school. Her subject matter expertise was OK, but her approach to adolescents was condescending, and she never was able or willing to correct that. Kids of any and every age really hate being talked down to, and she never found a way to get beyond doing so. She was still addressing the group as “…boys and girls” during her final week as a student teacher, just as she had on her first day, and the eye-rolls from her students were plentiful and obvious when she addressed them in that fashion. I’d mentioned alternatives to her several times, but she seemed unwilling or unable to adopt any of them.

      “…That September to June improvement did not come from reviewing my Curriculum & Instruction book; but rather, from learning on the job and the mentoring from the other teachers in our department.” I absolutely agree. I was terrible my first semester, and I, too, learned “on the job,” and largely by simply observing what kinds of tactics and approaches worked with kids and which ones didn’t work, or didn’t work as well as I’d hoped they would.

  6. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/10/2017 - 10:20 am.

    Teach for America

    I see an interesting difference in perception here: I see Teach for America being predominantly new college grads, unsure of a first job and seeing TFA as good place to start. While I left after 4 years, one of my teaching colleagues, who started the year before me, stuck around for another 30. We have stayed in close touch over the years and often discuss how things have changed. A point he made a few years back:

    “It is a different challenge now, when we worked together we were almost the same age as the kids we taught: 17 year old students and a 23 year old teacher. That may have created some challenges; but, it also gave us a big leg up into mutual understanding and building relationships. My students now are younger than my kids.”

    I agree with you on the challenges of shooting a 40 year old subject matter expert into an 8th grade classroom. But, I remain a fan of the new, just out of college teacher. Get those first few months out of the way and good things happen. I never worked harder at a job than I did in those first years of teaching: the idea of 100 plus kids spread out across the day looking at you each hour for guidance and if you did not provide it in a competent manner all hell would break out kept me at school late almost every night getting prepared for the next day, week, quarter. Again, not for some altruistic belief about molding young minds: No, if I was not ready, those kids would make me a puddle of screaming mess by the end of the hour. And my colleagues who consistently failed to competently manage a classroom by and large cleared out on their own: happy to be out of a job they hated (for good reason).

    I have a couple of nephews who graduated with non-teaching degrees in accounting and geology who went through the ACE Program ( https://ace.nd.edu/teach/how-ace-works ) that gets them into a classroom in short order and puts them through courses and mentoring leading to a Masters Degree in Ed. in 2-3 years. Has worked great for them.

  7. Submitted by John Appelen on 02/12/2017 - 08:24 pm.

    Ed Mn

    As long as ED MN is determined to choke the supply of good high performing Teachers from being licensed in MN, there will be shortages. That is what they want, it helps them when negotiating.

    And then there are those terrible steps / lanes / tenure concepts that stifle completion also…

    I keep hoping sometime we start putting kids first.

    • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/13/2017 - 02:59 pm.

      A Straw-man argument…

      I am always amused by those that cite the evil empire of the MEA. As a former member of the MEA and also the United Food & Commercial Workers union I can say the former had a lot to learn from the latter. Our local MEA group that represented the interests of the teachers for all wage and benefit issues was a biology teacher, a civics teacher and a math teacher against the best labor lawyer in town, a school board member with large agri-business experience and a wily 30 year Superintendent of schools. They whipped our butts every time. And what our negotiators always came back with was: “well we did not get nearly what we hoped to in actual compensation; but, we did get a better benefit concerning X Y or Z”. And the funny part is that by all that “winning” the comp battle and throwing a benefit bone to the workers made the current mess of pensions, 55 Year old retirees and other poorly funded mandates. If they had given an immediate raise and held back on the benefits the teachers would have been happier and the district likely better off in the long run. MEA vs. School District is a fair bargaining situation and the portrayal of the MEA as this omnipotent force that never loses is not reality.

      And those terrible steps and lanes? The school identifies curricular goals that they believe will improve teacher performance and then offer incentives for teachers to achieve them. Again, as American as apple pie and a Trump hat. Acting like teacher’s do not put kids first is dead wrong. Teachers and their ambitions, abilities and dedication are normally distributed, just like the ambitions, abilities and dedication of professional workers in the private sector and maybe more, because they made an initial career choice with full knowldge of income earning limitations.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 02/13/2017 - 05:41 pm.

        Oh Please

        I personally don’t think ED MN is evil, I just think they are focused on doing good by all of their employees. Especially the older ones who are more likely to have power within the organization. And there are unfortunate consequences of maximizing the compensation and job security for the older employees.

        ED MN apparently has ~70,000 members, I am pretty sure they can afford good Labor Lawyers and sizable donations to friendly politicians. Otherwise the citizens of MN would not allow:

        – the most expensive Teachers to congregate in the schools with the easiest students.

        – the newest and least expensive Teachers to be placed with the students who need “the best” Teachers.

        – paying and retaining people based on years served and degrees earned instead of their actual performance and capabilities

        – the new gifted Teacher needs to wait 10 years before they earn what they are worth.

        • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/15/2017 - 01:34 pm.

          Ignorance is bliss…

          I believe there are 330 school districts in Minnesota. Each of these is a unique bargaining unit that stands on their own for wage and benefit negotiation: So no, not every bargaining unit has the benefit of good labor lawyers. These wages and benefits are the result of fair bargaining. And ain’t that the American way?

          If you look around your company, I’ll bet that those employees with the highest degrees and greatest number of years served correlate well with compensation earned.

          The MEA is certainly concerned with the needs of their members; but, to suggest that there is not sincere concern for quality educational results reflects an opinion not based on first hand experience.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 02/15/2017 - 11:00 pm.


            Sorry, but independent is a pretty weak concept when all of the 330 contracts and pay schedules are public documents. The reality is that they use each other as a “point of reference” to justify their newest demand.

            Please remember one of my favorite sayings. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” I agree that most teachers entered the field because they do care about children. Unfortunately the system, unions, and employment contracts cause all of the terrible issues I note above to occur.

            Please address them if you disagree.

            • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/16/2017 - 10:20 am.

              Trust me…

              When I say the negotiators from the small, rural school district I taught in, had shown the Superintendent:

              “Look what Edina teachers just signed for”

              It would have been totally meaningless. I can imagine the wry smile that would cross his lips and the thought flashing through his head: “Why would these guys think this has anything to do with anything”. We were paid about 60% of Metro teachers up and down the dreaded lanes.

              First year engineers, like first year teachers, come in as raw potential. The better ones begin to realize that potential within 1-2 years. Teachers know where they stand on compensation due to collective bargaining. The engineer likely is dependent on management’s discretion. I would seriously doubt that any company calls in a second year engineer and says:

              “Great job we are tripling your salary immediately so you are paid the same as the most experienced engineer on our staff.”

              The successful second year engineer gets a nice raise, maybe a bonus and a vision of the path that will lead them to being a peak compensated employee in the future.

              Both the private company and the public school district enjoy the economic benefits of high performing, lower compensated younger employees.

              John: have more faith in your Black Belt training. Teachers, like engineers, are normally distributed for skills, ambition and dedication to their careers. And I’ll even go further and state that this applies between as well as within professions. Teachers, DNR employees, etc.. are no different than the accounting staff or manufacturing group. I see problems with the free market concept of 330 school districts each negotiating 20 to 1000’s of individual teacher contracts. There is certainly room for improvement; but, the basic structures are probably right.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 02/16/2017 - 03:35 pm.


                Normal variation is why tenure, steps and lanes are ineffective and inefficient. They are the equivalent of being highly prejudiced based on 2 factors… years and degrees…

                The reality is that every Teacher is unique, different and therefore “employment at will” is the only system that makes sense. That is why we have Supt’s and Principals…

                They should be determining the value of each Teacher each year and ensuring they are correctly compensated… Not sure why Teachers fear this normal business philosophy? No one likes performance plans, performance reviews, somewhat subjective reviews, etc. But I can not come up with a better system…

                And since we are paid roughly “correctly” per the jobs market and do not have to deal with tenure… If we are unsatisfied at work, we are free to shop around anytime. Not like an Sr Teacher who wears the “tenure handcuffs”.

                • Submitted by Matt Haas on 02/16/2017 - 11:31 pm.


                  Get back to us when your job security rests in the hands of a publically elected body whose main requirement for election is the purchase of a greater quantity of yard signs. Tenure provides more than greater benefits and pay, it provides protection against idealogical attack on curricula. I wonder how successful your engineering career would have been had the science education you recieved in youth had consisted of the analysis of a 6000 year old earth, orbited by the sun. The disintegration of the biological sciences alone would be stunning. As always, public entities are not businesses, and cannot be treated as such, they are societal trusts by which we ensure some measure of a equal inheritance to our future generations. That you would subject those entrusted with this vital role to the common drudgeries that are the bedrock of the private sector (the office politicking, brown nosing, nepotism, and back stabbing) shows an utter disdain for the fortunes of the kids whose interests you claim to be concerned with. The rat race is something to rail against, not champion.

                  • Submitted by Mike martin on 03/09/2017 - 01:58 am.

                    many states don’t have tenure

                    Many states like Iowa don’t have tenure for K-12 teachers. They seem to be doing perfectly fine without tenure. The teachers union used Scare Tactics to convince the public and school boards that tenure needed in K-12 when in fact it isn’t.

                    I believe most teachers dedicated hard-working in sincerely care about doing a good job teaching their students. I generally have a high opinion of them.

                    I have a much lower opinion of the teachers union. It’s hard for me to respect the teachers union when they call me asking me to see if I’m going to vote for their endored candidate for school board
                    And the head of the teachers union makes over $200,000 per year

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 02/15/2017 - 11:52 pm.

            Part 2

            Sorry, I forgot to address your other point. Actually I don’t think degrees / years correlate closely to income in the private sector. I mean there are some cases where an expert can command a large wage because they know something few others do or they may simply have a natural gift for sales, etc. But I know many many degreed and experienced employees who were shown the door before others with fewer degrees or years served. The simple rule is that “One’s perceived value must exceed One’s perceived cost or One’s job may be at risk.”

            And yes degrees and experience may get one an interview, but after that it is the person’s connections, knowledge and communication skills that get them hired. And usually wages are tied directly to their level of responsibility. I make maybe 50% more than a less experienced Project Manager because my load and responsibility is larger / riskier, not because of years served or my multiple degrees.

            And of course the problem with Teachers is that often their responsibility level is nearly the same whether they have 2 or 35 years of experience. They have similar class loads with similar students. The other problem is that an experienced multi-degreed Teacher may earn 2+ times as much as the 2nd year Teacher in the next class room even if their performance and workload are similar.

  8. Submitted by Bill Kahn on 02/09/2017 - 01:27 pm.

    Apprentices do not teach; they work under the supervision of a full-fledged professional at the trade to which they aspire, usually under the auspices of a trade organization. If that were what charters and other schools were doing, then fine, but what happens is just bad teaching for the most part.

  9. Submitted by Cindy Oberg-Hauser on 02/09/2017 - 04:01 pm.

    Stats please

    “The schools with the best results in MN are charter schools.” ??? Sorry, you’re going to have to post the stats that prove this statement.

  10. Submitted by Pat Terry on 02/10/2017 - 10:09 am.


    Charter schools do not outperform traditional public schools, even though they get to pick and choose their students.

  11. Submitted by John Appelen on 02/16/2017 - 03:22 pm.

    Agreed, I wish the Public Education world was more like the Private Engineering world for the sake of the kids…
    – Perform or move on…
    – Do what it takes to be successful
    – If you are unhappy in your job / district, don’t mope… apply elsewhere
    – Don’t count on a higher salary just because you have degrees or years served. They must improve your capabilities.
    – Stay relevant, trained and productive or there is the door.
    – You can get quick raises if you perform well
    – Get in line with the organizations goals or there is the door.
    – if you are willing to work more and take on more responsibility, you can earn more.

    It is a little nerve racking, but for the good of our customers, our company, our jobs, and the investors it is the most effective system.

  12. Submitted by Sven Ivarsson on 03/08/2017 - 12:19 am.

    Charter school admission

    I don’t know about charter school performance, but I do know it is not true that they pick and choose students. (I don’t understand why people say things that aren’t true). We families sign up our children at a charter school if we want them to attend. If there are more students signed up than there are spaces available, charter schools are required to hold a lottery for the spots. That makes it fair for everyone. This was important for us, and it was cool.

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