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Pawlenty blames union for no education reform

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota will not try to get bonus federal education funds because the Legislature did nothing to reform education, as required by the Obama administration, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced today.

The problem is the Education Minnesota teachers' union, he added, which has "a controlling influence" over Democrats who control the House and Senate.

Education Minnesota had no immediate response.

The Legislature adjourned for the year at mid-day Monday.

In his Capitol office, Republican Pawlenty urged Minnesota voters to "look to candidates who are willing to put their interest in Minnesotans first."

Minnesota missed the first round of the federal Race to the Top funds, and President Barack Obama's education leaders said the state would need to reform some education policies before it would be considered for up to $175 million in the second round.

Pawlenty and Education Commissioner Alice Seagren urged lawmakers to pass a list of reforms, including evaluating teachers and principals based on student performance and providing an easy way for professionals to become teachers. Both concepts, and others, were strongly opposed by Education Minnesota.

The normally mild-mannered Seagren said that Minnesota has been "bought and sold" by Education Minnesota.

The governor praised Senate education leaders such as Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, for attempting to pass education reform. But Seagren said that for the most part "legislators are very afraid to step up."

Education Minnesota is a major contributor to Democratic-Farmer-Laborite campaigns.

Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.