Pawlenty: Pass K-12 bill or risk losing Race to Top again

  • Article by: NORMAN DRAPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 19, 2010 - 8:56 PM

The governor said legislators must pass his education reforms as Minnesota enters a second round of competition for up to $175 million in Race to the Top federal funding.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty's extensive list of reforms for K-12 education has been packaged into a bill that the Senate and House will begin discussing Tuesday.

The proposed reforms aren't new; Pawlenty has put them forth in some shape or form since he first took office in 2003. But he warned at a Monday news conference that other states are already moving on school changes and that the Legislature has to act on his plan if it is to garner tens of millions of dollars in federal Race to the Top funding.

Minnesota lost out on its initial application for up to $250 million in Race to the Top funds, largely because federal reviewers found shortcomings in the state's K-12 policies, and the lack of teacher support for the application. Tennessee and Delaware were the only states out of 41 to get first-round grants. The second round could yield Minnesota up to $175 million over three years. The state must submit its application for those funds by June 1. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has estimated that 10 to 15 states could be awarded those grants.

Pawlenty's proposals include making it easier for midcareer professionals to enter teaching; requiring teachers to earn tenure every five years, instead of earning permanent tenure after a three-year probationary period, and giving Minnesota's education commissioner the authority to make changes in chronically struggling schools. States such as Tennessee, Delaware, Maryland and Wisconsin have passed or are considering similar measures, Pawlenty said. "They are not new concepts. ... That's the beauty of it; they're all ready to go," he said.

Such proposals have met resistance in the past, especially from the Education Minnesota teachers union and House DFLers. It's unlikely Pawlenty's announcement Monday will change any minds.

Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, chairwoman of the House K-12 Education Finance Division, said: "For the governor to poke his finger in the eye of the union one more time is not helpful. ... These are the same things the governor has proposed before."

Greiling will co-chair a joint House-Senate panel set to meet Tuesday to discuss education reform proposals and the state's Race to the Top application.

The Senate, which like the House is DFL-controlled, has been generally more amenable to some of Pawlenty's proposals. Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, who will serve as the other co-chair of the panel, said he hoped the Legislature could put together an education package that could strengthen the state's Race to the Top application.

In a statement, Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher said Race to the Top should be about erasing the achievement gap between white and non-white students.

"Unfortunately, we see very little in the governor's ideas that have that much-needed focus."

Norman Draper • 612-673-4547

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