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Teacher prep, pay hikes targets in Pawlenty plan

By Scott Wente

St. Paul Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL - Gov. Tim Pawlenty wants to link teacher pay increases to student achievement and to set higher requirements for entrance to teacher preparation programs.

Those are highlights from a package of education reform proposals the governor unveiled Tuesday during a series of stops around the state. What he said is similar to previous proposals that have failed in the Legislature.

Pawlenty, a Republican, wants lawmakers to consider his Teacher Transformation Act when they return to the Capitol in January for the 2009 legislative session.

"Minnesota is blessed with some of the best teachers in the country and we appreciate our teachers," Pawlenty said. "With these proposals, we will lead the nation in improving teacher effectiveness."

The act would:

• Tie teacher pay hikes to improved student performance.

• Strengthen the entrance requirements for college students interested in teacher preparation programs and toughen the exam they take to receive a teaching certificate.

• Create a new program to attract mid-career professionals into education to teach subjects such as math and science.

• Pawlenty also wants to start a new intervention program for eighth-grade students struggling in core subject areas.

The governor's proposals likely will be met by opposition in a Democrat-controlled Legislature that in the past has outlined different education priorities.

Half of public school teachers in Minnesota and across the country will be eligible to retire within 10 years, so this is a good time to look at reforming the way they are hired and paid, Pawlenty said Monday.

Most of the proposals deal with existing teacher policies and funding streams so will not require "dramatic" new state money, he added.