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Gov. Dayton vetoes part of Higher Education Bill, eliminates Teach for America funding

Dayton says Teach for America is a fine organization but prefers a formal grant program for such programs.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed the higher education bill with $250 million in additional funding Friday but vetoed its $1.5 million appropriation for Teach for America.

In his veto letter (PDF), Dayton said he was axing the funding — $750,000 a year for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 — because he didn’t like the way Teach for America was selected for the grant.

He called the national organization, which recruits college graduates and professionals to teach in urban and rural districts, “a well-established, national program” and noted that it has assets of $350 million.

“With those financial resources available, it is not clear why a $1.5 million grant from the State of Minnesota is required to continue or expand the organization’s work here,” he said in the veto letter.

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And he wrote:

My principal concern, however, is the way in which TFA was selected as the recipient of this grant. To my knowledge, no competitive grant program was established; no other applications were solicited; and no objective review was made by an independent panel of experts. Instead, the funds were inserted into the Senate’s Higher Education bill, directed to this organization, and retained in the Conference Committee’s report.

If the Legislature deems it is in our state’s best interest to encourage programs like TFA, a formal grant program should be established within the Minnesota Department of Education, and all qualifying organizations should be allowed to apply for funding. The legislation should establish the goals for such a program and the results by which its effectiveness will be evaluated. This type of competitive grants process would be a fairer way to distribute public funds.

The rest of the higher education bill includes $46 million more for the state grant program and freezes tuition for two years.