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The next 19 months: Pawlenty’s success on policy initiatives hangs in the balance

(This story appeared in today’s Saint Paul Legal Ledger Capitol Report)

While Gov. Tim Pawlenty won’t seek re-election in 2010, he hopes that his signature reform initiatives from the past six years will have a long life in the state’s public policy.

During his Tuesday press conference, Pawlenty said he will move forward in the next 19 months on issues ranging from K-12 education funding to the state’s tax code.

Observers who have watched some of Pawlenty’s key initiatives over the years have differing takes on the extent to which the governor will need to exert leadership in the coming months to accomplish those goals. For instance:

-The battles over Pawlenty’s signature Job Opportunity Building Zones (JOBZ) program for economic development in rural Minnesota have largely have been pacified, says University of Minnesota-Crookston professor Jack Geller.

-The Quality Compensation for Teachers (QComp) program that ties teacher compensation to student performance rather than seniority needs broader support in order to last, says Joe Nathan, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for School Change.

-The Heading Home business plan to end long-term homelessness in Minnesota by 2010 is running into trouble amid the economic downturn, lack of federal support and Pawlenty’s stance against raising taxes, says Chip Halbach, executive director of the St. Paul-based Minnesota Housing Partnership.


Pawlenty launched QComp in July 2005. As of January, 44 school districts and 26 charter schools are in the program. This year, Pawlenty sought increased state education spending to make QComp available statewide.There are policy changes to QComp that Nathan says are still needed. The program should focus on entire schools instead of just individual teachers, he says. For instance, special education teachers need to be invested in the program even if their students’ achievement isn’t at the same level as honor students.

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