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Duncan: ‘Compromise’ education reform plans won’t win federal Race to the Top grants

Education Secretary Arne Duncan today warned against “compromise” plans as states prepare their second round of Race to the Top grant applications, saying any “watered-down” plans would get rejected.

WASHINGTON — Education Secretary Arne Duncan today warned against “compromise” plans as states prepare their second round of Race to the Top grant applications, saying any “watered-down” plans would get rejected.

“Watered-down proposals with lots of consensus won’t win,” Duncan told the Wall Street Journal. “And proposals that drive real reform will win.”

Minnesota applied for the first round of Race to the Top grants — asking for $330 million that would have come if the state had won — but didn’t even make the list of 16 finalists.

Part of the reason Minnesota lost out, though certainly not all, is that there wasn’t sufficient buy-in from all stakeholders. Education Minnesota, the state’s top teachers’ union, disassociated itself from the state’s bid during the application process over concerns including linking teacher pay to student performance. Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s spokesman Brian McClung blasted Education Minnesota after the loss, saying it’s “hard to race to the top with an anchor tied to your leg,”

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So now Minnesota is trying again, looking at what the only two winners (Delaware and Tennessee) did to win and trying to re-craft their plans to the established model. And with cohesiveness being stressed from the top man at the Department of Education, it’s worth noting that the two sides seem as far apart as ever.

McClung told the Journal that “the main role (EdMN is) playing now is as the primary obstacle to passing any sort of reform,” while EdMN chief Tom Dooher said in the same article that the teachers’ union doesn’t trust Pawlenty because “our governor takes every chance he can to take shots at the teachers and the teachers unions.”