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Rep. Pat Garofalo of Farmington on Tuesday questions provisions in a House education funding proposal. He said when the committee debates the bill today, Republicans will offer amendments to change it. Tribune photo by Don Davis

Teachers oppose easy licensing measure designed to attract professionals from other fields into education

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ST. PAUL -- Paula Leach received training so she could deal with challenges she faces as an early-childhood special education teacher.

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The Hastings teacher fears that if the state gives an easy route for those who did not get such extensive training to get teaching licenses that students will suffer.

Leach told a House education finance committee about her concerns Tuesday, one of several teachers to complain about a provision contained in an overall education measure. The provision, like one proposed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, would ease the path to teacher licenses in an attempt to attract professionals from many fields to education.

But Leach said a high degree of training is needed to assess the needs of young children; professionals from other fields just would not receive enough of that training, she added.

Education Minnesota, a union representing educators, has other answers.

Jan Alswager of the union said teachers would prefer better salaries and programs such as forgiveness of college loans in an effort to attract teachers with a wider background.

Committee members heard teachers tell them that there is a big difference between knowing a subject and knowing how to teach it.

Committee Chairwoman Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, said she expects the teacher licensure question to be the big controversy today as the panel debates a Democratic-Farmer-Laborite bill that alters state education policy and provides funding for the next two years.

Funding also will be part of today's committee debate. While Pawlenty proposes raising education funding 2.2 percent and senators voted to chop it 3.2 percent -- in light of a massive state budget deficit -- the House plan would spend nearly $14 billion in the next two years on public school education, the same as in the current budget. However, $276 million in federal economic stimulus money is used to keep the spending level.

"I think it is mindless what the Senate has done and hasn't prioritized educating, but I give them great kudos for not paying schools late," Greiling said.

Part of the House plan, as well as one submitted by the governor, delays state payments to schools in an effort to save money in the next budget. The top education finance Republican said his colleagues have two major complaints with the bill. First, it does not add funds in the next budget, Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said.

Second, Pawlenty and other Republicans want some reform built into the measure, Garofalo added. An example would be to improve teacher training funding.

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