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Resonse to Ross Taylor re: Special Ed teacher qualifications & realignment
Subj:      [Mpls] Response to Ross Taylor re: Special Ed teacher qualifications & realignment
Date:     8/10/2004 10:38:43 AM Central Daylight Time

Ross Taylor, other board members, and MPS community,

What about the KIDS and the district's strategic goals of improving student achievement and closing the gap?

The district has a right and a duty to exercise discretion in setting minimum qualifications at a level that is "reasonable" and certainly at a level that is required to ensure the safety of its students.

With respect to some Special Ed teacher positions, the district's failure to exercise discretion in setting minimum teacher qualifications higher than "holds a Special Ed license" could lead to loss of Medicaid funding and lawsuits from parents because reassigned teachers don't have and can't get the training necessary to provide a safe environment for all of the students in their charge by the start of the 2004-2005 school year.

The district opted for procedures that maximized the number of high-seniority elementary teachers who would be reassigned to other areas. And if enrollment in elementary grades continues to fall as projected, few if any of those teachers will have the opportunity to bid back into jobs as elementary classroom teachers. If they follow the advice of Ross Taylor and give up their licenses to teach in other areas, it is unlikely that they will have a job in the Minneapolis Public Schools next year.

If the district had actually followed procedures called for by the MN Teacher Tenure Act and the teacher contract, the district should have determined which jobs were likely to be "excessed," advised affected teachers that they would need to bid for available jobs as soon as possible, and opened up bidding as
soon as possible after April 1, 2004. Realignment of senior teachers should be a *last resort.*  As far as I have been able to determine, about 150 high-seniority elementary teachers have been realigned but only about 125 tenured teachers held teacher positions in 2003-2004 that are to be excessed.

The district's 2004-2005 budget calls for a net reduction of 210 teacher positions from 2003-2004 due to an anticipated enrollment of 4600 [fewer] K-12 students, yet the district laid off 608 teachers. That is certainly excessive, can't be good for the KIDS, and is clearly illegal. The MN Teacher tenure states that  

"...The board may place on unrequested leave of absence, without pay or fringe benefits, as many teachers as may be necessary because of discontinuance of position, lack of pupils, financial limitations, or merger of
classes caused by consolidation of districts..." MN Teacher Tenure Act, 122A.40 Sub. 11

It is clear that the district did not place on unrequested leave of absence "as many teachers as may be necessary" because of cuts in the 2004-2005 budget. The procedures followed by the district clearly violated the law in this respect.

Unfortunately, the district is not being accused of violating the MN Teacher tenure act in any way in a lawsuit filed by Gregg Corwin on behalf of a group of MPS teachers over the realignment process. By failing to dispute the district's claim to be following the law and the teachers contract, the lawsuit actually helps to legitimize the district's actions, and puts the district in a very strong position to defend itself in Court.