Governor Tim Pawlenty gave a preview of his education agenda to Star Tribune columnist Lori Sturdevant in yesterday's Strib. Presumably, Pawlenty will give a more detailed overview in his upcoming State of the State address.
About the best way to improve education: "We'll have a robust set of offerings in education. It will certainly include high school redesign and reform.
"The data are pretty compelling. School performance on average chugs along pretty well in grade school and middle school, and then with the exception of the high performers, it tanks in high school. We're putting a lot of money into a four-year experience that is not producing much academic ROI. We have to find ways for children in the middle, and certainly those who are at risk, to be engaged, passionate, on task, and advancing well in high school. We'll have a significant proposal when it comes to that."
What happened to putting 70 percent of school funds in the classroom? "We are going to do 70 percent whether the Legislature passes it or not. We'll make sure the department [of education] makes sure there's a rigorous, uniform measurement of where the resources go, and make that available to the public in a user-friendly form."
The stakeholders to whom Scholar has spoken say that these "x% of funding to the classroom" proposals sound good, but it is largely an accounting gimmick: like when you go to the doctor's office, whether insurance pays for it depends on what code they assign to the procedure. A more meaningful reform in this area would be to scrap the UFARS accounting system for a more straightforward, transparent system. Paging Pat Anderson!!
And early education? "There's an endless number of things that are good ideas in education. You could construct a list of 75 things that would be really good to do. But it has to be prioritized, in the context of the resources that we have available.
"For example, all-day kindergarten. It's a nice idea, and something we are open to. But if you do it full-blown, it's $320 million a biennium. The data says it helps, but in an era of limited resources, doesn't it make more sense to dial in resources to disadvantaged kids? Our approach when it comes to early childhood will be to focus on kids who are at risk and disadvantaged."
Perhaps the state of Minnesota's slide into cradle-to-grave, nanny state socialism at least won't accelerate during the second Pawlenty administration (statewide smoking ban aside).