Minnesota Education

Commentary by Pete du Pont

Host intro: President Clinton made a speech recently in Chicago to emphasize his commitment to improving the education of American's children. Commentator Pete du Pont of the National Center for Policy Analysis says he should have stopped off in Minnesota.

Minnesota's educators, like others around country, are doing badly: a third of 8th graders fail the basic reading test. A quarter fail math. Many high school graduates lack basic skills.

Unlike some of their colleagues, however, Minnesota educators are doing something positive. The program is called Students First.

Minnesota's giving parents tax credits and tax deductions for money spent the way they choose in furthering their children's education, including tutoring, summer school and private school tuition. They're increasing the number of charter schools and adding performance-based pay for teachers within the public school system. They're giving schools more autonomy, but also establishing state-wide testing so parents can compare their school's performance with others.

The discredited education bureaucracy hates it, but even their objections come off like endorsements. As the head of the St. Paul school board said of charter schools, "they have all of the advantages and none of the restrictions." Well, yes.

As governor Arne Carlson says, the goal is to redesign the system around the student, not the provider, and hold everyone accountable for their part in ensuring the success of our children.

Minnesota's on the right track. How many states will follow?

Those are my ideas. And at the NCPA, we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont, and I'll see you tomorrow.

Host outro: Tomorrow, more good news from Pete du Pont.