The Minnesota Senate has passed legislation to establish alternative pathways into the teaching profession.
Three DFLers joined the Republican majority to pass the measure Thursday on a 40-23 vote. The bill allows non-traditional teaching candidates to get a two-year, limited license if they work toward a full license in a state-approved teacher-training program.
Supporters argued alternative licensure will bring a broader array of teachers into the classroom and help narrow Minnesota's achievement gap.
Currently, "Teach for America" is the only such program operating in the state. Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, said the change in teacher licensure will put children first.
"We must use every tool in the tool box to be able to combat what poverty and other limiting factors do, to put barriers in front of our kids. We must do all we can to remove those barriers," said Bonoff.
Opponents argued that the bill sends the wrong message to those prospective teachers willing to take the longer, traditional path into the profession.
And DFL Sen. Ellen Anderson said she was distressed by the absence of a minimum GPA requirement for participants.
"I can't tell you how many times I've told my middle schooler that a 'C' average isn't good enough. You have to do better," said Anderson. "I can't imagine why I would want him to think that his teachers don't have to do better. That just seems wrong to me."
Opponents also argued that too many good teachers are currently out of work.
The state's teachers union, Education Minnesota, opposes the measure. A companion bill is moving through the House.