Pawlenty challenges Minnesota to lead rather than "get dragged"

On Tuesday, Governor Tim Pawlenty simultaneously stood up for meaningful education reforms and tried to position the state to win second-round federal Race to the Top education reform dollars.

"The only question in this room is going to be 'Do you want to get dragged there, or do you want to lead to that point?'" said Pawlenty. "I suggest we lead because this is going to happen. It will happen some time in the next 3-10 years."

Sometimes politics makes for truly odd bedfellows. The Pawlenty administration and education reform advocates are finding themselves supporting some of the significant aspects of the Obama administration's Race to the Top initiative, while many Democrats and the teachers unions, strong supporters of candidate Obama in 2008, oppose them, including:
  • Alternative teacher licensure - allowing non-traditional candidates like mid-career professionals alternative paths becoming licensed teachers
  • Pay for performance - linking teacher pay to student performance, even more than Minnesota's current, optional Q Comp program

Conservatives generally and the Pawlenty administration in particular have been advocating for these types of reforms since at least the late 1990s. From the nation's first charter school laws to replacing the process-oriented Profile of Learning with knowledge-based academic standards, to Q Comp, Minnesota has often led the way in education reform, rather than let itself be dragged by Washington, D.C. educrats to improving its public school system.

There is no reason for Minnesota to wait for yet another federal subsidy before implementing more nation- and world-leading education reforms. According to the U.S. and state constitutions, education is a function of the various states, not the federal government. With the right leadership, Minnesota can close the achievement gap, lower costs, and put more control of the schools in the hands of local school boards and parents. That would be change we could all believe in.