MN and “Race to the Top”: A snapshot of conservative education policy


Anti-government conservatives don’t make very good government administrators. Putting the people who wish to see government fail in charge of a government produces a predictable outcome.

The Minnesota “Race to the Top” federal educational grant application rejection debacle proves, once again, what happens with anti-public education conservatives running Minnesota’s state educational infrastructure.

Minnesota Public Radio broadcast a lengthy story, continuing to explore the what-went-wrong question regarding Minnesota’s incomplete Race to the Top grant application. Reporter Tom Weber does a terrific job fleshing out the story’s nuance, and it’s worth a listen.

It tells a story that progressive public education policy advocates know all too well; Governor Tim Pawlenty and his Department of Education, having spent seven years quietly but determinedly undermining public confidence in Minnesota’s public schools, are suddenly revealed for doing exactly that. The Race to the Top application and subsequent professional reviewer scoring and comments create a snapshot of state disinterest.

Much ado is being made of consultants McKinsey and Company’s $250,000 fee for the application rush job, but it’s not McKinsey’s fault. Rather, it’s symptomatic of the larger problem. Seven years of education bashing have created a phenomenal level of distrust between Minnesota’s chief education policy makers and public education stakeholders. The federal reviewers correctly note the lack of a state comprehensive plan, but that’s not the consultants’ fault.

Minnesota doesn’t have a comprehensive state educational plan because Governor Pawlenty has never demonstrated interest or shown leadership in creating one. His objective, driven by his no-new-taxes policy orthodoxy, is to reduce the public investment in education. That, simply stated, is the conservative goal and, by both objective data measures and anecdote, it’s working. Conservative public policy is crushing public education.

Let’s not get caught in the flurry of finger-pointing drama, a distraction from what really matters: properly funding Minnesota’ schools. Without the best possible education for every child, Minnesota has no real hope for broad future prosperity. It doesn’t take a McKinsey consultant to know that.