Administrators blame ‘union rules’ for teacher shortage

It’s always “union rules.” Says Christopher Magan in the PiPress on the latest complaints about teacher shortages, “Minnesota faces a growing shortage of teachers in key specialties, and educators and policymakers are divided over how to attract and retain qualified teachers. Administrators argue that Minnesota’s strict licensing requirements and union rules make it difficult to attract and retain highly effective and diverse teachers. Teachers union leaders say that state law already gives schools flexibility and that the rules Minnesota has now ensure students get the best teachers possible.”

Speaking of teachers, here’s Pat Kessler’s report for WCCO-TV on that advancing seniority bill. “Minnesota lawmakers are preparing to vote this week on a top Republican priority that could affect every school in the state. The bill would allow school districts to lay off ineffective teachers even if they have union seniority and classroom tenure. Staff reductions hit Minnesota schools hard during the last few years of recession. Now, a plan at the capitol would turn layoff rules upside down and make teachers with seniority as susceptible to layoffs as rookies.” The pieces do seem to fit together, don’t they?

Former revenue commissioner John James has a “two step” idea for transportation funding. In a Strib commentary he says, “Minnesota’s transportation funding mechanism, the gas tax dedicated to road funding, no longer suffices to meet the state’s transportation needs. Minnesota needs more investment in transportation now, and a long-term solution. Dayton is right that just spending some of the surplus on transportation would not solve the long-term problem. Daudt is right that the increased gas tax should get no further consideration, and that general fund revenues should help fund transportation.”

Speaking of: David Montgomery and Rachel Stassen-Berger of the PiPress say, “The projects in Gov. Mark Dayton’s $6 billion road and bridge plan would cost as little as $40,000 — or as much as $482 million, new numbers released Monday show. The list of 600-plus projects was released two weeks ago, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation didn’t say how much each one might cost until Monday. … On tap for metro roads: $500 million or more in new pavement and bridges on Interstate 94 between downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, and another $500 million or more for new MnPASS lanes on Interstate 494, Interstate 35W, U.S. Highway 169 and Minnesota Highway 36.” returns to the U of M’s Dan Markingson case. Jennifer Couzion-Frankel says, “A damning report on how the University of Minnesota (UM) protects volunteers in its clinical trials concludes that researchers inadequately reviewed research studies across the university and need more training to better protect the most vulnerable subjects. It also found that a “climate of fear” existed in the Department of Psychiatry, where concerns about clinical trials first surfaced. The 97-page report, released 27 February, was prepared by a group of six experts appointed by the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs. It comes after years of complaints by some UM faculty members, led by bioethicist Carl Elliott. They charged that the school and its doctors failed to protect 27-year-old Dan Markingson, who died by suicide while enrolled in a psychiatric drug trial in 2004. They also expressed grave concerns about how Markingson’s death was investigated.”

The Glean

This is good news. In the Strib, Dave Chanen writes, “Minnesota’s specialty drug courts continue to significantly reduce recidivism and lower incarceration and related costs for drug court participants, according to a study released Monday by the state’s judicial branch. … among those offenders who reached four years of “at-risk time” during the evaluation, 28 of drug court participants had received a new conviction, compared to 41 percent of non-drug court participants.”

The AP’s Steve Karnowski on the latest in the Victor Barnard story: “A former member of a small religious sect said Monday that the woman arrested with its leader in Brazil was part of the group back when it was based in east-central Minnesota. … former River Road Fellowship member Jeff Sjolander of Duluth, who welcomed Barnard’s arrest, recognized her name and told The Associated Press that she had been one of the ‘maidens’ in Finlayson, so he wasn’t surprised that she was with Barnard in Brazil. The woman had been going to school in the Minneapolis area ‘when she fell in with the group, ended up moving to Finlayson and became a maiden with Barnard,’ Sjolander said.”

Franken will snub Bibi. MPR’s Brett Neely reports, “Franken says he won’t attend a speech before a joint session of Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday. ‘This has unfortunately become a partisan spectacle, both because of the impending Israeli election and because it was done without consulting the administration,’ said Franken in a statement issued by his office. ‘I’d be uncomfortable being part of an event that I don’t believe should be happening.”

Hang tough, kids. City Pages’ Cory Zurowski reports, “ … it was no surprise that, last year, Corinthian Colleges Inc., Everest’s parent company, was forced to shutter many of its schools, including its only Minnesota location in Eagan, under the weight of state and federal probes alleging it cheated students by lying to them about job placement and graduation rates. Now a group of students has launched ‘a debt strike.’ They’re vowing not to repay any student loans they took out to attend Corinthian’s schools. … [Cong. John] Kline, the chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, has netted hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from for-profit colleges. So it’s perhaps no coincidence that he authored the grandly titled Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act, which ensured that the government couldn’t crack down on wretched schools, no matter how poorly they performed. It blocked the feds from forcing colleges — like Corinthian’s Everest Institute in Eagan — to disclose graduation rates and median student debt-loads.”

A couple Adrian Peterson notes. At Eric Goldschein says, “If it wasn’t painfully obvious when his agent almost came to blows with team officials at the NFL combine, Adrian Peterson’s time in Minnesota is all but officially over. A report from Vikings beat writer Arif Hasan says that the team is trying to offload Peterson ‘any way they can’ despite publicly declaring otherwise. … While Hasan wasn’t able to get a sense of which teams wanted AP, and how badly, we do know that Adrian Peterson’s father, Nelson, brought up a few possibilities last week. (‘I’ve heard rumors, Arizona,’ Peterson’s father said. ‘I’ve also heard the rumors of Indianapolis and the Colts, going there with a quarterback the caliber of (Andrew) Luck. I’ve also heard the Cowboys, coming back home with the Cowboys, behind that offensive line that they have’).”

Then there’s Ben Goessling at ESPN writing, “Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said Monday that the team has had ‘open dialogue’ with Peterson since Thursday. Spielman would not elaborate on the Vikings’ conversations with Peterson, but said again the team wants him back next season.” I’ve got my money on the first story.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/03/2015 - 08:10 am.

    The horror of MN licenses…

    The Pipress story about teacher’s licensing describes the tale of a young woman from California. She came to MN to seek her fortune in a Charter School only to be dashed up on the rocks of MN oh so strict requirements. What’s so strict? Well, to begin with she had “dig” into her education records to prove she’d done the coursework. Apparently getting a copy of your transcripts online is just asking toooooo much.

    Then she had to take some classes while working full time! The horror! My wife got her Ph.D while working full time, and thousands of people in other professions likewise get degrees and work at the same time. Some employers even pay for coursework in related fields and work, did this charter school pay the required coursework? In the end our poor teacher burns out, but does she burn out because the licensing is too much, or because the job was too much?

    And whatever you do, DON’T check into licensing requirements BEFORE you come to MN, I mean who plans ahead when you have a Master’s degree in Education?

    I’m not saying things couldn’t be smoother, but you don’t get qualified teachers without training, and you don’t get training without paying for it, and you don’t get people interested in doing difficult jobs by turning them into Wall Mart widgets.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 03/03/2015 - 09:09 am.

      And for what?

      To work in a job where you and your colleagues are happy to be treated like auto workers at General Motors.

    • Submitted by Michael Hess on 03/03/2015 - 02:00 pm.


      This comment misrepresents the issues that can face an out of state teacher. It’s one thing to get your transcript from your school of graduation, no one is going to argue that’s unreasonable. it’s another to be looking for the syllabus of your class from all those years ago so someone can compare point by point your class to decide if it was the same enough as the class taught somewhere in Minnesota – or when it ends up being easier just to take a class again here in Minnesota instead of get credit for what you took when you took it. this article from MinnPost nicely summarized the issue, better than the Pioneer Press did. The commentor also ignores the items in the article I linked to above, namely that the requirements may look straightforward but they are not, as evidenced by how many people are getting a 1 year licensure instead of a real one. so yes a teacher could check into this before coming here, feel confident in their qualifications, and have an unfortunate surprise. This is an issue and it needs to be addressed, not sarcastically dismissed by someone with inadequate understanding of the problem.

  2. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 03/03/2015 - 08:21 am.

    Sigh … Markingson case – a scandal and not just a tragedy

    In response to a Minnesota Daily piece on the release of the University funded report on clinical trials – I wrote the following:

    The most disappointing thing about this review is the reaction of the administration: “I am particularly gratified—but not surprised—that the panel found no legal or compliance violations, affirming numerous previous reviews and accreditations of our program” President Kaler

    There is a significant difference between unethical and illegal. Sadly the same kind of rationalization was used by former AHC vice-president and medical school dean, Frank Cerra, while the conflict of interest scandal was going on.

    See:”We’re not violating a legal statute.”

    This kind of response is not worthy of an institution purporting to be a great university.

    Our “brand” certainly has been damaged by this clinical trials fiasco. Claiming to potential participants in research trials that we will do nothing illegal to them is hardly an encouragement to participate.

    And for those without the free time to read the report, here are some examples that should serve as illustrations of why fixing the situation in our clinical trials operation and medical school is so important.

    Bill Gleason
    U of M grad and former med school faculty

    “For example, faculty and staff in Psychiatry repeatedly characterized the climate of work as a ‘culture of fear.’ They provided stories of intimidation by researchers and fear of retaliation should staff voice opposition to practices that were of concern.”

    “The review team found little evidence that the University’s IRB engaged in a meaningful process of evaluating research risk.”

    “Investigators have failed to address issues of vulnerability to coercion or undue influence.”

    “It was clear to the external review team that the membership of the Medical IRBs did not include sufficient members with the scientific expertise necessary to adequately address the research being reviewed at corresponding meetings.”

    “The failure to have either adequate number of IRB members, or adequate expertise, during IRB deliberations raises profound questions about the IRB’s ability to conduct a robust and reliable protocol review.”

    “Of the 30 protocols examined for scientific review, five cases were identified where the scientific review was completed by a subordinate faculty member for research in which a department chair was the principal investigator. In these cases, a conflict of interest exists and the risk of bias in the review is significant.”

    “Accordingly, the minutes did not completely or accurately appear to represent what occurred during the IRB meetings. “

    “The review process, as documented in the minutes, does not reflect a meaningful discussion of the risks and benefits of research protocols and the necessary steps taken to protect human subjects in the face of scientific or ethical concerns. “

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/03/2015 - 09:58 am.

      Yeah, the “culture” is not self policing.

      The issues with these drug trials are nothing new, and the rules are designed more to protect researchers than they are to regulate them. The problem with IRB’s (institutional review boards) and human subject requirements is that they review and approve study designs in advance. Once the study is under way, which is when the problems actually arise, these boards have no role whatsoever. Once that study design is approved, you’re on your way. Once the study is under way it’s up to medical directors and the researchers themselves to maintain and enforce ethical and legal guidelines and practice. In other words you MD’s watching MD’s and the sad fact is that in this culture, MD’s are loath to interfere with other MD’s.

      I know we problems with drug trials and certain MD’s when I worked in psych and complaints or concerns expressed to the Medical Director got absolutely nowhere.

      I’m not saying it isn’t a tough gig. You want to be able to develop and test new drugs, the problem is the economics. I wonder if the problem has gotten worse in the last decade or so? As we’ve dialed back government research dollars over the last decade or so the pharmaceutical companies are funding more and more of the research directly. They demand bang for the buck and quick results. This drives researchers into recruitment binds and corner cutting. Instead doing a number of smaller studies with smaller sample groups over a longer period, they try for larger knock out’s with large sample groups.

  3. Submitted by Nathaniel Finch on 03/03/2015 - 08:28 am.

    Right, it must be the union rules

    Yeah, it must be the union rules that result in a teacher shortage. It couldn’t be that teachers get no respect at all in our culture, are constantly blamed for underperforming students, and get paid less than people in many other professions. Let’s get real. In today’s climate, who would be attracted to teaching?

  4. Submitted by Steve Vigoren on 03/03/2015 - 01:02 pm.

    “Minnesota faces a shortage of teachers in key specialties”

    Three of the top four of those specialties – Emotional Behavior Disorders, Learning Disabilities, Developmental Disabilities. Wow! That is some tough stuff, right?

    Republican solution: Do away with seniority, (the number one solution they have for any teaching/labor issue that I have read about for many years)

    And the lady in the article did get her full teaching certificate, but said she was “burned out”, which is most likely a common issue with teachers in the above specialties. Those types of teachers must have an unbelievable dedication to their profession and their students, and I commend the lady in the article for taking it on.

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/03/2015 - 02:27 pm.

    It’s an odd culture

    …that views experience on the part of licensed professionals as a negative factor, particularly when, in other professions in the same culture, it’s generally viewed as an unalloyed good thing.

    As for the pay scales, I was paid less than a garbage collector in the city where I lived when I started my teaching career. Thirty years later, when I retired, I was still being paid less than a city garbage collector. Garbage collectors do valuable, public health-related work, but the requirements to get and keep the job are significantly different from what’s expected of a teacher.

    Yes, indeed. I’m sure it’s the “union rules” that make hiring teachers more difficult here than elsewhere…

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