A record Dow Jones drop may have been the backdrop, but when the state's top business and political leaders gathered Monday night for the Minnesota Business Partnership's annual dinner, the focus was on something fundamental to the Minnesota economy -- education.

That's the issue that inspired the creation of the MBP 31 years ago. It's good to see the CEOs of the state's 110 largest companies back where they started. Nothing is more crucial to sustaining this state's vaunted quality of life in coming decades than imparting more and better education to Minnesotans, both young and not-so-young.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty made the case that improving the caliber of the state's teacher corps should be central to education betterment.  In remarks commendably conciliatory toward both DFL legislative leaders and the teachers' union, the Republican governor said he will seek to build a consensus about improving teacher education and upgrading standards for admission into the profession. He acknowledged that better pay for teachers needs to be part of that effort, "but we need to pay them differently," he said. He proposes to add more student achievement measures to teacher compensation formulas.

"I can't change this as the Republican governor saying to a Democrat Legislature, 'Thou shalt do this,' because the teachers' unions will tell me, 'Thou shalt go jump in the lake.' We need to do this as a team," Pawlenty said. There's been little of that kind of teamwork in Minnesota policymaking during the Pawlenty years. But with the economy faltering, the need for Minnesotans to come together to shore up Minnesota's brainpower advantage has never been greater.  The business leaders assembled Monday night will serve this state well if they press both parties for joint action on education improvement.