Pawlenty makes call for Legislature to 'Race'
Gov. Tim Pawlenty is calling for the state Legislature to pass several education reforms in hopes of improving Minnesota's odds in competing for federal funds linked to the Race to the Top program.
Pawlenty took his message statewide to five cities on Thursday. In Rochester, he stressed the need for the Legislature to pass reforms proposed during the current session, specifically ones that allow alternative paths to teacher licensure for industry professionals and that tie student growth model performance to teacher evaluation.
"Do you want to be on the cutting edge of reform or be laggards?" Pawlenty said. "These are precisely the kinds of things that need to pass if we're going to compete for Race to the Top."
Pawlenty listed 24 pieces of legislation related to Race to the Top criteria that he has supported since 2003. Only two have passed, including the controversial Q Comp, alternative teacher payment system. Three are pending in the current legislative session.
The Obama administration's Race to the Top program is set to award a total of $4.35 billion to a handful of states that are picked from a competitive application process. The first round recently wrapped up, with Tennessee receiving $500 million and Delaware $100 million.
Minnesota wasn't named a finalist in that round; the state has until June 1 to apply for the second round of funding. However, due to Minnesota's disappointing performance in the first round, Pawlenty has said he won't file another application unless the reforms he's touting are passed.
Another weakness of Minnesota's Race to the Top application compared to the winning states was the support of teachers unions.
Delaware's application had 100 percent support from superintendents, local school boards and teachers unions. Tennessee had 93 percent from local teachers unions. Minnesota had all of the superintendents supporting the application, but only 84 percent of school boards and 12 percent of teachers unions.
Teachers union Education Minnesota did not support the first Race to the Top application, and both the union and Pawlenty have sparred politically since then.
After Pawlenty's press conferences, Education Minnesota President Tom Dooher released a statement calling Pawlenty's quotes a "take it or leave it ultimatum."
"One of the very specific rules of Race to the Top is that states work together with their teachers, their schools, and all of the groups with a stake in education," Dooher said. "It’s supposed to be a team effort to build an application that everyone can agree will improve education for our children. There has been no move by the governor to make that happen."
Pawlenty said Tuesday that his statements shouldn't be taken as "Tim Pawlenty versus the teachers' union of Minnesota," but that these legislative moves would support what the Obama Administration and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have tried to get states to accomplish.
But he also said the strength of Education Minnesota works against its constituents, specifically DFL lawmakers.
"If you're a Democrat and you cross Education Minnesota, you're dead," Pawlenty said.
State Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, also had harsh words for Pawlenty.
Greiling, chairwoman of the house K-12 Education Finance Division, said in a statement that Minnesota's first Race to the Top proposal was "poorly written and sloppily crafted."
"If Governor Pawlenty were really serious about getting Race to the Top funds he would work harder to bring people to the negotiating table and then stay at the table himself," she said. "But so far, we’ve only seen him throw out sound bites designed to get him some national attention, rather than introduce thoughtful proposals that would give attention to the Minnesota students who need it most."