TAPS yet to be stung by teacher shortage

High school principal says streamlining licensure process, paying more are ways to solve growing statewide problem

By Per Peterson

Tracy Area High School Principal Kathy Vondracek spent one year at Tracy Elementary School — 2010 — and remembers having to fill a sixth-grade teaching position. She had 40 applicants to choose from. Before that, while at Walnut Grove, she said she would get up to 100 applicants for one elementary job.
That was then.
Last year, there were four elementary positions to fill in Tracy and the total number of applicants for all four spots was nine, Tracy Elementary School Principal Michael Munson said.
How times have changed.
“In a fast and furious hurry, we have lost our teacher base among our young people,” she said.
According to published reports, there were more than 200 teaching jobs posted in Minnesota last month alone for math, science and special education, and it doesn’t take special math skills to figure out the numbers for schools aren’t adding up anymore. The big question is, why the struggle to fill positions?
Vondracek came to Minnesota from South Dakota and can’t even compare the licensure process for teachers between the two states.
“It was so much simpler in South Dakota,” she said. “It just wasn’t an issue.”
It is in Minnesota and has been for a number of years. As politicians have debated teaching licensing, school administrators cringe at the thought of replacing good teachers.
The issue of teacher licensing got so contentious last year, it wound up in court. In August, an appeals court rejected a request from the Minnesota Board of Teaching to dismiss a lawsuit filed by 18 educators over the state’s licensing system. The teachers’ lawsuit claimed the Board of Teaching made arbitrary and inconsistent decisions when rejecting applications for teaching licenses and ignored the state Legislature’s request to streamline the licensing process for educators trained out-of-state and in alternative programs.

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.