Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Monday cautioned business executives that the United States cannot succeed if its education policy leaves children unprepared for the work force and urged Washington to give states more flexibility.
Pawlenty, a likely 2012 Republican presidential candidate, said the United States is lagging in the world because of the quality of job applicants. He said those students who make it to high school graduation aren't always prepared, and far too many don't reach graduation day at all.
"We cannot be a successful country of just 300 million people, leaving a third of our team on the bench," Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty took a critical tact on Washington-centered education policies, arguing that they prescribe solutions without taking into account regional differences for costs and values.
"Each state is different," Pawlenty said. "One of the strengths and challenges for Minnesota, may be different in terms of our history, our policies. The challenges and opportunities we face may be different than New Mexico, may be different than West Virginia. And so each state must customize or semi-customize its approach to making sure our states are places where entrepreneurs and innovators ... want to take risks."
Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, joining Pawlenty at a round-table discussion, urged better training for teachers.
"In education, we blame educators for everything," Manchin said. "You name an educator that's had to take a business course, that's had to take a management course, had to take a financial course. They don't have that. ... None of them have any expertise in those areas and we wonder why we're not successful."
Politically, Pawlenty's comments were pitch perfect for a GOP primary audience should he seek his party's nomination. With emphasis on local control, free markets and tough-on-Washington rhetoric, the 49-year-old governor earned quiet nods during his 10-minute remarks from business leaders at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's headquarters across Lafayette Park from the White House.
Pawlenty is not seeking another term in the Minnesota governor's office and already has made visits to states that fall early on the nominating calendar.
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