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NEA gives Gov. Dayton national award because he ‘makes education a priority’

Here’s why he got the award — and why some Republicans would disagree with the sentiment.

We reported Tuesday that Gov. Mark Dayton had flown to Washington D.C. to get the National Education Association’s America’s Greatest Education Governor Award.

Now, post-award, we know the group’s reasons:

“Gov. Dayton has repeatedly stood strong for Minnesota’s students and schools,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel [in a statement]. “He has kept his promise to make education a top priority of his administration by increasing education funding and focusing on our earliest learners. We are pleased to honor Gov. Dayton with the America’s Greatest Education Governor Award. We are grateful for his continued commitment to students and the education professionals who work in schools and classrooms.”

And the group says:

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This past May Gov. Dayton signed an education policy bill that includes a provision to require school districts to pay teachers, on military leave, their full salary. Previously, school districts reduced the pay of teachers on military leave in order to cover the costs of a substitute teacher. The provision was enacted after Matt Reuter, a teacher and NEA member at Goodview Elementary School in Winona, Minn., was required to pay $11,000 for a substitute teacher while he served in Afghanistan in 2011.

But Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press notes that there’s no mention of the governor’s role in the state’s borrowing from schools to end the shutdown:

Dayton and Republican legislative leaders struck a budget deal in 2011 to end a 20-day government shutdown that included borrowing an additional $770 million in state aid from schools to help close the state’s $5 billion budget shortfall. That brought the total amount owed to schools to $2.7 billion and forced schools to borrow money to manage cash flow. But the budget deal also included an additional $50 per pupil in state aid to offset borrowing costs.

And Dayton vetoed a Republican plan to take $430 million from the state budget reserves to pay some of it back, saying it was fiscally irresponsible.

And Republican House Education Finance Committee Chairman Pat Garofalo commented to the paper about Dayton’s rejection of  performance-based evaluations of teachers:

“So it’s no surprise that a national organization that opposes education reform would bestow on him their highest honor … It’s bad for the kids of Minnesota but a great win for the teachers’ union,” Garofalo said.