Charter school fined $140K for license violations

The Minnesota Department of Education on Wednesday said it will fine a charter school $139,800 for employing teachers who didn't hold valid teaching licenses.

Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, which has locations in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine and caters to Muslim students, found that eight TiZA staff members were out of compliance, Education Commissioner Alice Seagren said. State money will be withheld from the school starting Dec. 15.

Seagren said she was imposing the maximum fine, which is 60 percent of the school's basic allowance for the days it was deemed out of compliance.

TiZA said in a written statement that officials will appeal the education department's decision.

"It is TiZA's contention that the Minnesota Department of Education did not substantiate its claims either factually or legally," the statement said.

The school initially was found in March to have 23 staff members out of compliance with teacher licensure laws. State education officials gave the school time to correct the violations.

In June, 14 TiZA staff members were found to be out of compliance, but education officials reduced that number to eight after acknowledging they had failed to properly notify TiZA about some teachers' status and didn't have enough evidence of violations for others.

State aid to the school has come under scrutiny after allegations that TiZA was allowed to use taxpayer money to promote the Muslim religion, which would be unlawful.

TiZA officials have said such scrutiny is unfair. The NAACP of St. Paul has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights over state education officials' treatment of TiZA.