Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced a plan Tuesday to expand on his longstanding effort to link teachers' pay to improved student performance and calling for more rigorous training for educators.

Pawlenty also proposed new ways to encourage the recruiting of mid-career professionals to teach math and science in high schools and intensive new remedial courses for eighth-graders falling behind classmates.

He said the proposals would cost "a few million dollars," adding that "money is not the barrier to getting these done."

But DFLers who have been working on their own public education plan criticized the proposals as a rehash of Pawlenty ideas that fail to come to grips with what they called a $1 billion shortage in state education funding.

Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, chairwoman of the House K-12 finance division, said budget cuts in 2003 resulted in diminished programs for struggling students.

"We haven't been able to replace a dime of it, and now he has something for just eighth-graders," she said of the cuts.

The governor said it would be unwise to promise major funding measures until the state's economic forecast in November. State government is expected to be facing a budget shortfall.

Pawlenty said new teacher incentives, training and recruiting are needed to deal with a possible 50 percent turnover in teachers within the next 15 years.

He spoke at a State Capitol news conference, part of a statewide tour to promote his plan,

Linking pay and outcomes

The plan for tying a portion of teacher compensation to student performance follows the governor's Q Comp program, a merit pay system that allows districts to give teachers extra money for meeting personal, classroom and school goals.

The new version would base a portion of teachers' pay raises on improvements by their students during the year and be required of districts that aren't participating in Q Comp, Pawlenty said. He said a portion of education funding would be dedicated to such performance raises.

But the head of Education Minnesota, the state's largest teachers union, took a dim view of the latest teacher incentive plan.

"To say you're going to tie a teacher's pay raise to how they start the year and how they end the year, that's not even reasonable to talk about," said Education Minnesota president Tom Dooher. "There are too many factors that we do not control. We take in every kid. We don't know if they slept that night, if they had breakfast, what their home life is."

Pawlenty defended the idea, saying "this is not teacher-bashing" but a way to improve a generally effective education system. "We need to modernize and improve our expectations for teachers in Minnesota."

He said he envisioned waiving certain education course requirements for mid-career professionals looking for a change and willing to teach math or science.

"They shouldn't have to go back to college for four years or six years to be certified to teach," he said.

The governor also proposed setting tougher entrance requirements for teacher preparation programs.

Pat Doyle • 651-222-1210