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MN Legislature Focuses On Wrong Teacher Personnel Problem

Posted: 02/21/15 23:59

by Dave Mindeman

The legislature continues to fill this balloon that critiques LIFO as a method of teachers getting laid off. The proponents of changing this (which affects only 40% of school districts), are citing a report from the Minnesota Department of Education. This is what they find troubling.....

Between 2008 and 2013, nearly 2,200 Minnesota teachers were laid off under the so-called "last in, first out" provision in state law, according to a recent analysis by the Minnesota Department of Education.

If you just glance at that you think, wow, 2200 teachers that's a lot. But then you see that it is over a 5 year period. Which means the number is actually an average of 440 teachers per year - in an education teacher workforce of over 50,000.

I took a look at the broader report and it seems to me that our legislature has missed the boat here. That report deals more with teacher shortage issues than labor layoff problems.

Let's look at some of the other facts in the report.

We are losing teachers at an average rate of 8% per year - it has increased to 10.2% over the last 2 cycles.

Teacher retention is 86% meaning teachers stick with their job into the next year. Only 4.5% of hires are new licensees. Another 3.5% of hires are from teachers who are "unretiring" - coming back to the profession after leaving.

Another troubling fact is that 16.4% of teachers leave the profession after 1 year....and almost a third (32.3%) leave before they have taught 5 years.

A survey question asked school districts as to how many of them were "forced to reduce staff due to funding restraints"? Only 14% answered yes while 86% said no. But 20% of the districts could not find anyone to hire for some special ed programs....and a full 50% found the positions difficult to fill. Even in core curriculum like Chemistry and Math, 9% of districts had positions that could not be filled and 38% said they had difficulty finding teachers to hire.

The main positive in the report is that over the last 5 years we have managed to hold the student/teacher ratio average at 14.7 students.

But want to hear more disturbing trends?

96% of the teacher workforce in Minnesota is white. But minority students are rapidly increasing. In 2008, 23.5% of students were minority. In 2014, that number was 28.5%.....projections show us that in 2019, we will have a student body which is at 30.6% and by 2014 a full third of our students (33.5%) will be made up of minority kids.

And then there is special permissions. This means the district hired a teacher who doesn't meet the description criteria (but gets a waiver to do so) for the position they fill. This happens 6% of the time overall, but over 20% in special education. In fact, one statistic states that 11% of districts could not fill a position dedicated to Emotional/Behavior Disorders. An area that takes up a big portion of school budgets these days.

After looking at that report, I think the legislature needs to change their priorities....and fast. We have a teacher shortage problem and the incidental layoffs that occur in various districts are not the problem we need to deal with.

Instead of this GOP war on teacher's unions (helped along by some key Democrats), the legislature needs to tackle the minority learning disparity and teacher shortages (especially in rural areas, right House GOP?)

I would hope that those citing this report as some kind of proof of a LIFO (Last In-First Out) problem, at least read the rest of the report.

Because that information said a lot more.
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