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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Mn. Teacher’s Board Must Reinstate License System

MINNEAPOLIS(CN) - The Minnesota Board of Teaching violated state law when it stopped processing applications for teaching licenses through its portfolio system, a Ramsey County judge ruled.

In a 24-page ruling, Judge Shawn Bartsh ordered the Board to immediately reinstate its licensure via portfolio program and issue teaching licenses to qualified individuals.

In 2004, the Board created the "licensure via portfolio" as an alternative way for teachers to receive their licensure and as a way to fulfill the mandate of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The portfolio system considered an applicant's experience and training and the program could be utilized by teachers, many of which came from other states, whose backgrounds may not match the exact teacher training in Minnesota, according to the order.

Between 2004 and 2011, 531 teachers received Minnesota licensure through the portfolio process.

In 2012, the Board abandoned the portfolio program.

The Board argued it had discretion to refuse to accept applications via the portfolio method based on the Board's interpretation of a Minnesota statute and administrative rule.

Bartsh rejected the Board's claims that the courts do not have jurisdiction over the Board's decision to end the portfolio program.

"The ruling is a terrific win for teachers because it requires the Board to immediately create rules and finally explain what is required for them to get licensed" said Rhyddid Watkins, who represents the teachers.

Watkins sais prior to Bartsh's ruling, "Licenses were arbitrarily issued on a case-by-case basis without any identified requirements or consistency."

For example, Watkins had two clients, who are spouses. According to Watkins, even though they had identical education backgrounds and taught at the same school, the board issued a license to one spouse and not the other spouse without providing any reason.

Watkins has been challenging the Board for three years and has compelled the Board to issue licenses to dozens of teachers it had denied.

For 30 years, Anthony Munsterman has been a music teacher and has taught music to fifth grade through 12th grade, including instrumental band, general music, orchestra and choir. However, because Munsterman's teaching license is not technically in choir he would not be able to expand his license to cover K-4 and choir without completing additional course work.

Watkins said Bartsh's ruling will force the Board to accept Munsterman's application for review. He said the ruling also mandates the Board to develop procedures for the portfolio program and requirements for the applicants.

The teachers are represented pro bono by Watkins, of Faegre Baker Daniels, and Nathan Sellers with Fabyanske, Westra, Hart & Thomson.

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