DFL gubernatorial candidate Matt Entenza said Thursday that if he were governor he'd reduce the number of tests school kids take, pull the state out of the federal No Child Left Behind education program, merge the Office of Higher Education with the Department of Education and increase distance learning classes for K-12 students.

While Entenza offered the drop in state funding per student as an example of the state's wavering "commitment to our children," he offered no new money for education in his "bold plan"  in the immediate future.

 

"Over the long term, there's no question we have to increase our investment...but we are not going to campaign promising a Minnesota Miracle in two years because we have a $6 billion deficit," said Entenza. DFL rival Margaret Anderson Kelliher has backed the so-called "New Minnesota Miracle," which would provide more money to schools and rewrite the way the state divides the funding pie.

If he were governor, he said one of his first acts would be to pull Minnesota out of No Child Left Behind and replace it with different accountability standards for teachers and just one test for school kids, designed on growth models.

"Tom Emmer has voted in support of No Child Left Behind," Entenza said.

Republican candidate for governor Emmer, a current House member, voted in against withdrawing from No Child Left Behind in 2008, according to House records.

But he also questions the federal program.From his campaign Web site: "Well-intentioned policies such as No Child Left Behind often leave our teachers and administrators overburdened with paperwork, little to no additional funding, and less time to teach our children; there must be a better way."

In the past, state officials have estimated it would cost Minnesota about $200 million per year in federal education dollars if it were to pull out of the federal education policy plan.

But Entenza, and others, say No Child Left Behind also costs the state money because it has to put kids through so many tests. Federal education policy will also likely soon be rewritten, which would make it less likely Minnesota would lose federal education dollars in the near term if it were to pull out of the policy.