House education committee chair apologizes over “Gestapo” remark


Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, chair the House Education Reform Committee, had strong words for an Education Minnesota plan to include 90 days of classroom supervision for teachers undergoing an alternative licensing program in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio on Tuesday evening. Erickson said the plan amounted to a “teacher Gestapo,” and unions have already seized on those comments as an example of the overheated rhetoric that has become hotly debated across the nation in the wake of the tragedy in Tuscon. Erickson tells the Minnesota Independent Wednesday she “overstepped her bounds” with the comment and apologized.

Rep. Sondra Erickson

“It sounds like the teacher Gestapo to me. I think that if a candidate comes out of one of these programs, he or she is going to be well-prepared to be in the classroom,” Erickson told Minnesota Public Radio. “If a district has decided that candidate should be in the classroom, I’m not sure why we would need that Gestapo at work, and I would like to visit with them about that.”

Erickson has since said it wasn’t a good choice of words. “I completely overstepped my bounds,” she told the Minnesota Independent. She said that she meant to say that the 90-day supervision proposed by Education Minnesota was unnecessary given the highly skilled and highly qualified teaching applicants that would come through an alternative licensing program, adding that they wouldn’t need the extra supervision because they already have the experience.

“I really believe that once they are in the classroom, they don’t need that extra supervision,” she said.

Her words, however, sparked a firestorm on Twitter.

“Equating anyone in our politics with a band of murderers is unacceptable,” tweeted the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

Mary Cathryn Ricker, president of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers, called for Erickson to apologize. “Rep Sondra Erickson compares thorough supervision of new teacher quality to “Gestapo”?! Apologize now!”

Shar Knutson, president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO issued the following statement over the remarks:

“For Representative Erickson to compare the responsible supervision of beginning teachers to tactics in Nazi Germany is inflammatory and has no place in our state’s public policy debate. Minnesota’s elected leaders have a lot of important work ahead of them and comments like this only hinder that work. Representative Erickson should apologize to the 70,000 public educators who work hard every day to give our kids opportunities to succeed.”

The Gestapo was the Nazis’ secret police, known for taking people into “protective custody,” which often meant indefinite imprisonment without a trial.

Erickson said she had received many calls and emails on Wednesday over her comments.

“I certainly do apologize,” she said. “And I’ve said that to everyone who has sent me a message today.”