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Pillager art teacher testifies on teacher test requirement

Pillager School District art teacher Dan Devine Tuesday testified before the Senate Education Committee that a learning disability prevents him from passing a writing test required in a law that was passed by last year’s Legislature.

Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, said the bill before the committee calls for the repeal of a state law that requires all Minnesota teachers to pass a reading, writing and math test to get a teaching license.

The Associated Press reported that Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill last February after it won nearly unanimous support from lawmakers. But the Senate Education Committee reviewed a bill Tuesday to repeal the requirement as some teachers and school officials testified that it’s blocking qualified people from classrooms. Opponents of the requirement also say parts of the test are difficult for non-native English speakers that teach students who also have limited language skills.

Devine, an art teacher for five years in the Brainerd-area Pillager School district, said he has been unable to pass the test’s writing portion because of a learning disability that was diagnosed in high school.

“The fact I have not passed the writing test has no bearing on my ability to do my job,” Devine said, according to The Associated Press. “But I can motivate students to produce excellent work or think deeper about a topic.”

Pillager High School Principal Scott Doss called Devine an excellent teacher.

“He’s here fighting for a career worth $38,000 a year,” Doss said.

Supporters of the bill say it should be improved, not scrapped entirely, according to The Associated Press.

Ruud, a member of the Education Committee, said the bill to repeal the law was laid over because it needs work.

“There are some things that need to be changed,” she said.

Noting that every state licensure has to pass a basic skills test, she said Minnesota wants great teachers. She said the author and supporters of the bill to repeal last year’s law were asked to make changes and bring it back to committee.

(This story contains information compiled by The Associated Press)

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860