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Pawlenty outlines education platform

Tim Pawlenty said he will try for at least "an inflationary level increase" in school funding in a state budget that will focus on core services. The Republican gubernatorial candidate outlined his education platform, took some shots at Gov. Jess...

Tim Pawlenty said he will try for at least "an inflationary level increase" in school funding in a state budget that will focus on core services.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate outlined his education platform, took some shots at Gov. Jesse Ventura and unveiled some of his budget philosophy. Pawlenty addressed the board of directors of the Minnesota School Counselors Association in Duluth last week. He said Ventura was good at press conferences but did little else.

"Minnesota's education system is still very strong," said Pawlenty. "But we have a changing state. We need to start being more sophisticated in our approach to education."

The candidate described Minnesota's financial picture, saying the budget has doubled in 10 years, while the population only increased 12 percent. "We don't have a lack of spending," he said.

The candidate said per pupil spending varies greatly around the state, but in many school districts it wasn't correlated to results.

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He proposed agreeing on what students need and defining how much that would cost. Pawlenty said the problem has been legislators fighting over a percent of increase rather than determining the real cost per student.

He said school district employees are not well paid and suggested schools move toward a performance based pay model by at least offering some performance incentives.

"We need to have students learn," he said. "We can measure that."

"We are facing a mammoth state budget deficit," said Pawlenty. "I can't say I'm going to raise taxes to get more money into the system. I will at least try and get an inflationary level increase in school funding."

Turning to graduation standards, Pawlenty said, the idea was good, but got implemented poorly. He said standards are needed, but the profiles of learning have gotten to be a joke. He favors state mandated curriculum in core areas, with school districts determining the rest.

He also said the state had to find better ways to deal with student behavior issues. Pawlenty said he would be open to ideas from the counselors, who complained of being buried by a mountain of paperwork.

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