ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota lawmakers moved Friday to help former and current military members and their spouses win temporary licenses to work in classrooms, social work offices and other specialized fields.
It's part of a broader discussion within the Legislature this year about licensing and evaluation, a debate that has stoked particularly strong feelings in education circles. Other measures about how to assess teacher quality were heard by the House Education Policy Committee, which decided to take more time to talk them through.
The military legislation would grant applicants a temporary license in a variety of professions as long as they continue to work toward fulfilling the requirements of obtaining a permanent license.
"This bill is not meant to usurp licensing boards," said Rep. Will Morgan, DFL-Burnsville. "We're simply trying to help military families who have been moved not by choice."
The committee approved the bill, sending it to another panel for further review. There isn't consensus around other legislation dealing with teacher qualifications and accountability, which consumed hours of committee debate.
Minnesota has a merit-pay program for teachers, known as QComp, and a state-mandated teacher-evaluation program set to begin in the fall. But there is concern about how the two will fit together.
QComp has existed since 2005. School districts that voluntarily participate get more money, but raises awarded with those extra dollars are based on performance goals that administrators and local teachers unions mutually agree on.
School districts approved for the program receive up to $260 per student, said Greg Keith, educator evaluation coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Education. He said of Minnesota's more than 330 school districts, 69 participate in Q Comp. And of the state's roughly 140 charter schools, 66 use QComp.
"It has the flexibility to meet individual school-district needs," Keith said.
The newest wrinkle is a 2011 law that required annual teacher evaluations statewide. Categories of assessment include classroom teaching, curriculum planning and professionalism.
Bills before lawmakers this year go to various lengths to meld the two approaches. One Democratic-sponsored option would convene a task force to study how best QComp could complement the new teacher-evaluation program and whether any extra state funding is needed. Another, put forward by Republicans, would more strongly link the two programs and place added emphasis on assessing student performance when evaluating teachers.
Rep. David Bly, DFL-Northfield, expressed concern about any system that tied student performance to teacher pay. A lot of things are beyond a teacher's control, he said.
With this year being a short session, committee deadlines are fast approaching. The committee's chairman, Democratic Rep. Carlos Mariani of St. Paul, said the discussion would resume as soon as next week.
"We have a pretty rich landscape to make some further decisions in the coming weeks," he said.