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Most licensed Minn. teachers are staying out of the classroom

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School districts throughout Minnesota are having trouble filling teaching positions even though fewer than half the state’s licensed teachers are working in the public schools, according to a report issued this week by the teacher licensing board.

The publicly funded Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board researched the biennial “supply and demand” report last fall with the Wilder Foundation.

Its findings align with previous state and national studies on teacher licensing, hiring and retention. Those studies have found a high percentage of young teachers leaving classrooms within the first couple of years.

According to the report released Wednesday, some 70,000 licensed Minnesota teachers are not working in classrooms. That’s 52.5 percent of licensed teachers in the 2017-18 school year.

Meanwhile, districts reported difficulty in hiring teachers. The problems aren’t concentrated in specific regions of Minnesota, but exist statewide.

The report didn’t include recommendations. The board is seeking funding for a statewide teacher survey on why licensed teachers aren’t working in their profession.

“The report clearly illustrates how districts are struggling to find fully prepared and licensed individuals to fill teaching positions,” said Alex Liuzzi, executive director of the licensing board. “And all of these concerns substantially increase when looking at whether we have enough teachers of color in Minnesota.”

Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, the teachers’ union, said the results aren’t surprising. Low salaries are only one part of the problem for former teachers.

“The stresses of overcrowded classrooms and the unmet mental health needs of many students have pushed out others,” Specht said. “Minnesota schools are starving for additional resources. If the state Legislature doesn’t deliver them this year, I’m sure Minnesota schools will lose hundreds of more good educators this spring to less stressful jobs in the private sector.”

The report also found a stunning lack of racial diversity among teaching staffs. While one-third of students statewide belong to minority groups, only 4 percent of teachers are people of color.

The licensing board, which is separate from the state Department of Education, paid Wilder $47,000 for its work on the report.

“Our next step is collecting more comprehensive data to uncover why so many teachers leave the classroom,” Liuzzi said. “With the additional information, we can find solutions to increase enrollment in teacher preparation and increase the retention of our current teachers.”

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