PELSB Seeks Public Input on Rule Draft

On Friday, March 16 the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) hosted a meeting at the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) in order to receive public input on PELSB’s rule draft for the new, four-tiered teacher licensure system.

However, the rulemaking process for PELSB hasn’t been the smoothest. Originally, they were on a tight timeline to have the rules done by July 1, 2018, the date prescribed in statute. They had also had a March 2 hearing scheduled, which would have moved PELSB forward on finalizing the rule draft that they had inherited from the now-dissolved Board of Teaching (BoT) in fall 2017.

The rulemaking process, however, came to a stop on February 24 so PELSB could address a report issued by Chief Administrative Law Judge, Tammy Pust. In the report, Pust said that PELSB violated state law when they failed to publish a Request for Comment on or after January 1, 2018. Rather, PELSB had been following a timeline that had been established by BoT and the Revisor’s office had also assured them that their actions were “not only legally sound, but the only path to completing rulemaking prior to the July 1, 2018 deadline.”

Pust allowed PELSB to use BoT’s draft rules as a starting point, but at the same time mandated that PELSB reinitiate the entire rulemaking process on their own, which they have done. This post will discuss two major issues in the rule draft—mentoring and cultural competency—that have so far been a focus of public comment, as well as a timeline for how individuals can provide feedback to PELSB.

Mentoring: Mandated in Statute or PELSB Overreach?

One of the more contested areas in PELSB’s rules is the section on required mentorship for Tier 1 and Tier 2 teachers. In the rule draft, it reads that, in order for a candidate to receive a Tier 1 or Tier 2 license, the district must affirm that the candidate “will participate in a mentorship program aligned to board-adopted criteria.” The rules do not mention mandated mentorship for Tier 3 and 4 teacher candidates. However, in statute, school districts are only “encouraged to develop teacher mentoring programs for teachers new to the profession or district” (not required).

At the public hearing, as well as in public comment, there was wide agreement that teachers, should receive mentorship. The issue was whether PELSB had exceeded statute through their rulemaking by requiring Tier 1 and 2 teachers to receive mentorship. EdAllies wrote, “This rule would prevent schools that do not a mentorship program from hiring—or retaining—Tier 1, Tier 2, and licensure via portfolio teachers.” While Richard Rosivach, a teacher in Mounds View, wrote, “The requirement for teachers in Tier 1 and 2 to have mentorship experience is both reasonable and necessary.”

Cultural Competency: Inclusive or Exclusive?

Another highly contested component in the draft rule is around the definition of cultural competency training. PELSB defines it as a “training program that promotes self-reflection and discussion on all of the following topics: racial, cultural, and socioeconomic groups; American Indian students; implicit bias; systemic racism; gender identity, including transgender students; sexual orientation; language diversity; and individuals with disabilities.”

Several comments made online indicated that the PELSB definition in draft rule is overreach because “cultural competency” is already defined in statute as, “the ability of families and educators to interact effectively with people of different cultures, native languages, and socioeconomic backgrounds.” David Petron wrote, “The statutory definition that was passed by the Minnesota legislature provides flexibility for school districts, allowing each district to design and provide training that meets the needs of their teachers and students in an appropriate, district-specific manner.”

Many echoed Petron’s remarks, calling for retaining the legislature’s definition and removing PELSB’s definition entirely from rule, while others called for amending PELSB’s definition. Robert Osburn wanted religious identity to be added to the definition, writing, “In the same way, Minnesotans who hold deeply religious perspectives, whether Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, or Christians, will perceive that what many of them consider a core dimension of their identity is simply ignored by those who have crafted this rule.”

How Can You Provide Input to PELSB?

Below is information on ways that individuals can provide PELSB with feedback on their draft rule.

After public comment has closed, PELSB aims to have the new draft rules available the week of April 9. You can find more information about the meetings here.

Education Evolving will continue to follow and report on PELSB rule draft, executive director search, and other relevant topics.

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