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Unions v. Race to the Top: States are waiting for Arne Duncan.

Like anything about public school, this piece attracted the usual Wall
Street Journal
school-hating, teacher-hating reader comments. But one reader had something useful to say.

James Cook Comment: As someone who serves on a suburban school committee, The Race to Top program is a special interest pork barrel boondoggle designed to bestow precious federal dollars on urban schools or charter schools.

The bill will do little to improve those schools since there's misguided notion that the problem lies with teachers' unions. If we can wanted to improve these schools, let me suggest a teaching approach that employs diversified learning

Frankly, the federal government should get out of public education, and get back to constitutionals duties. The states are better suited to addressing the issue of education.

Is the Obama Administration going to side with school reformers, or will it reward state and local teachers union affiliates that defend the status quo? This is a question states are asking as they prepare their applications for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top competitive grants. Some guidance from Education Secretary Arne Duncan would be helpful.

Teachers unions in Minnesota and Florida are currently threatening to withhold support for their state Race to the Top applications, which are due later this month. So is the school boards association in Louisiana. This matters because the Administration has placed a premium on states garnering "local school district support" in order to win a grant. Not having union buy-in isn't fatal, but it definitely hurts a state's chances of getting federal funds.

States will be evaluated on a 500-point system, with the largest number of points (138) going to states that improve teacher effectiveness by using student performance to help rate instructors. States are awarded 45 additional points for getting "local education agencies" to sign off on their applications—about the same number of points they get for turning around failing schools.

Unions are mainly opposed to teacher accountability reforms. Both Florida and Minnesota want to implement or expand systems that tie teacher pay to student test scores. The irony is that both President Obama and Secretary Duncan have expressed support for such programs, yet Race to the Top is giving leverage to reform opponents who would eliminate or weaken these policies, and it punishes states that want to expand them over union objections.

— Editorial
Wall Street Journal


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