Minnesota’s ‘Race to the Top’ flop

A longtime leader in eduction, Minn. loses out in the first round of awards.

Minnesota has been passed up in the first round of federal Race to the Top grant money. The $4 billion program, funded by the stimulus act, is challenging states to rethink their educational systems by adopting standards-based assessment, improving teacher quality and turning around the worst-performing schools. If chosen, Minnesota would stand to gain $250 million in K-12 funding, likely the only âÄúnewâÄù money on the table for the stateâÄôs stagnant education system in an era of budget deficits and spending restrictions. Although there will be a second round in June, that the stateâÄôs application wasnâÄôt chosen in the first cut should be a wake-up call to a complacent public. The Minnesota Miracle âÄî the 1971 funding model that propelled the state to the top of education rankings âÄî has lost its luster, and infighting and finger-pointing now constitute much of what passes for state leadership. With a governor bad-mouthing the federal government on a national platform, an entrenched statewide teachersâÄô union afraid of reform and lawmakers unwilling to collaborate, it shouldnâÄôt be a surprise that Minnesota was passed over. Collaboration and common ground must again become guiding principles in keeping the stateâÄôs education system among the worldâÄôs best. An aging population and increasing competition from abroad necessitate a more productive, better-educated workforce. Though losing the Race to the Top hurts, it should be a call to action rather than an excuse to avoid breaking bad habits. Whether we qualify for the next round of funding, itâÄôs time to reinvigorate our ambitions for Minnesota education.