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Minnesota Opinion: Cooperation will win race to the top

An excerpt from recent Minnesota editorials.

By The Associated Press

Cooperation willwin race to the top

If Butler's last-second shot half-court shot had gone in, rather than bouncing off the rim, the Bulldogs would have pulled off the biggest upset in the storied history of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Sadly, it might require an upset of similar proportions for Minnesota to be one of the "winners" in the second round of Race to the Top, a federal program that will distribute up to $4.35 billion to states that prove they're serious about comprehensive education reform. It's a competition, and 40 states entered the race. ...

The situation isn't quite hopeless. We haven't been told how the remaining funds will be distributed, and it's within the realm of possibility that more than a dozen states will get a share.

Minnesota's problem, however, is that to qualify for funding, everyone needs to be on the same page -- and our governor and the statewide teachers union aren't even in the same book when it comes to education reform. In order to meet a June 1 reapplication deadline, one or both parties would have to experience a major change of heart. ...

On Thursday, Pawlenty was in Rochester, and he was blunt in his criticism of Education Minnesota and the DFL-led Legislature, which he says for years have collectively blocked any attempt to reform the state's educational system. "These changes are coming," he said. "This is the future of education. The only question is, do we want to lead, or do we want to be dragged there?"

Education Minnesota didn't take long to issue its response. "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," wrote Tom Dooher, the group's president. "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."

He's right, up to a point. Communication is a two-way street, and our governor isn't destined to be remembered as Minnesota's "great compromiser." ...

We agree. Minnesota has a good educational system, but it's time to move away from the status quo. We need new definitions of what it means to be a great teacher, and we need to make it easier for smart, talented, passionate people to find their way to the front of the classroom.

Of course, without significant changes in how we pay for K-12 education, it will be difficult to make such dramatic changes. A few hundred million dollars in Race to the Top funds certainly would help.

-- Rochester Post-Bulletin