Monday, April 19, 2010

Starting Gun Goes Off on Revised Race to the Top Application. Just when you think most of the major education issues have already been discussed this session, Minnesota's application for Phase 2 in the Race to the Top competition has leap-frogged every other order of education-related business. With the gislative decision to wait on final action on the respective K-12 omnibus education funding and policy bills in the short term (the shortest of short terms), attention has turned possible legislative action on several items the Pawlenty Administration believes are necessary if the application is to fare better in the upcoming round of Race to the Top Awards.

As many of you recall, Minnesota's failure to find its way into the sixteen finalists for the Phase 1 awards ignited a veritable conflagration of charges and counter-charges as to why Minnesota's application was unsuccessful. Most of the sniping took place between Governor Pawlenty and Education Minnesota. For a refresher, check here:

Note the strong language laying the blame for the failed application at the doorstep of Education Minnesota.

The reaction from Education Minnesota (and one gubernatorial candidate) have been equally strong. Just last week, gubernatorial candidate defended Education Minnesota while excorciating Governor Pawlenty in a press conference with Education Minnesota leadership. For those comments, check here:

In the return of serve category, the Governor countered today with a press conference that outlined a bill being introduced that contains provisions he believes the Legislature must pass if Minnesota's Phase 2 application is to be taken seriously. Included among those provisions are measures to allow the state to take over failing schools, alternative teacher licensure, reforms to teacher tenure and enhanced alternative bargaining.

Tomorrow, this bill will receive a hearing at a Joint Senate/House E-12 Policy Committee meeting at 8:30 AM in Room 200 of the State Office Building. It should be interesting and I will be wearing full body armor.

I'm not going to channel my "inner Barry Goldwater" here, but I can remember doing a book report on Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative" while in junior high and among Goldwater's points was resistance to the creation of a federal department of education. As Dennis Miller used to say "I don't want to go off on a rant here (so I won't)," but all of this Race to the Top noise makes me wonder how much help school districts throughout the country actually get from the US Department of Education. Instead of forcing legislatures throughout the nation to pass laws which may or may not really do anything to promote student achievement, maybe they should think about funding special education and Title I at the amounts needed to match the supposed commitment made when these funding formulas were first passed.

I was thinking about the old Certs commercial when I was pondering what to write in the blog today. You know "It's a candy mint." "No, it's a breath mint." "It's two, two, two mints in one." To me, Race to the Top is similar "It's an education program." "No, it's a game show." "It's two, two, two things at once."

The next few days will be interesting as how the Legislature reacts to the Governor's admonishments will likely affect the atmosphere for the remainder of the Legislative Session. I'll let you know how the first round of that turns out tomorrow.

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