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The race is on for better educational opportunities

Gov. Phil Bredesen is exercising his constitutional authority to call for a special session of the Tennessee General Assembly focusing on education, including both K-12 and higher education.
That session, set to begin today, is sure to benefit education.
The special session coincides with the start of the regular legislative session, placing education first on lawmakers’ agendas as they return to the Capitol.
In making his decision, Bredesen acknowledged this year’s tight budget but noted, “Sometimes the stars line up to create an opportunity that no one expected. And when you’re in public office, you’re obligated to seize the moment when that happens.”
Bredesen went on to say there has been “a couple of unique, unexpected opportunities drop in our lap” this year that he believes will “allow us to focus on the entire education pipeline in one fell swoop and hopefully make some changes that will be felt for years to come.”
The federal government’s “Race to the Top” competition is one of those opportunities, as states will compete for a share for more than $4 billion in Recovery Act funds. “Race to the Top” applications are due Jan. 19. The U.S. Department of Education has said states that will be the most competitive will be those that already have policy changes in place at the time of application.
The second part of the Governor’s call for a special session will involve higher education.
“In 2010, it’s only natural that we focus on the entire education pipeline as we look to create a more skilled workforce,” Bredesen said. “As we all know, it’s not just about getting kids through high school anymore. It’s also about students completing their degrees or certificates so they can get high-quality jobs and have a decent quality of life.”
Among changes Bredesen will call on lawmakers to consider is modernizing the state’s funding formula for higher education to make it substantially based on performance, such as higher degree completion rates.
Bredesen is urging lawmakers to join with him to take advantage of these unique opportunities to accomplish good things for Tennessee schools and students.
“I’ve said often that in public life, it’s easy to say ‘I’m for education,’ but it’s much harder to step up and demonstrate that in a meaningful way,”
Bredesen has made education a top priority as the Legislature goes back into session.
Hopefully, Northeast Tennessee and Washington County representatives and senators will find much to their liking in Bredesen’s efforts to “get some things done.”
With federal dollars at stake, quick action is needed to meet the “Race to the Top” deadline.
It’s time for state legislators to lace up those sneakers, because this is one race Tennessee cannot afford to lose.