Education Cuts: Have you heard of Race to the Top? Should we all run?


President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
W
hat have you heard about the Race to the Top? Anything? And, if you’ve been following this federal program, what are you hearing about responses in your part of the U.S.? Should all schools in a state join this race?
   
I’d really like to hear from you today with your thoughts on education in your region. Scroll down to see our earlier stories this week. We’re trying to gather a range of viewpoints, this week, on the tough choices we’re all facing about funding our schools this year.

Our schools are not just cutting costs. They are also looking for new revenues. Near my home, the Ann Arbor Public Schools are opening 150 school-of-choice seats to attract new students. The move could net over $1 million.

Getting stimulus money is another option. Next week is the deadline for states to apply for the fed’s “Race to the Top” fund (RTTT)—a competitive grant program for education. The money—$4.35 billion—is part of the whopping American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (AARA). (The photo at top shows Obama and our Secretary of Education talking about the fund.)

But it comes with a lot of strings, such as tying teacher evaluations to standardized test scores and giving parents more power to intervene in failing schools.

As a result, some school districts are opting out.

Michigan hopes to get up to $400 million from RTTT but some school districts won’t sign on. Among these are Bloomfield Hills, Berkley, Birmingham, Novi, Lake Orion, Madison, Walled Lake and South Lyon. The superintendent of Bloomfield Hills presents his reasons on the school’s web site. Here is an excerpt:

Our relatively good financial position, for the time being, allows us to ‘Just Say No’ to the so-called experts in Lansing and Washington who would force our teachers to drop all the excellent work they do and instead teach to the MEAP. We are a high-performing district that doesn’t need or want one-size-fits-all solutions like RTTT, with outsiders telling us how to evaluate our teachers—we already have an excellent plan for evaluation that appropriately looks at student achievement.

 

All this sounds great, but the higher the number of schools refusing to sign on, the lower the chances of the state getting the RTTT money. That wouldn’t cause a problem for wealthy districts. But it would cause even more problems for poor districts.

Should all school districts sign on to raise the odds of winning the Race to the Top? Or, is looking out for No. 1 okay with you?

What’s happening in your school district—and state? Are you racing to the top? Or, are you not racing?

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