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Gov. Perry: Texas Knows Best How to Educate Our Students

Ohanian Comment: Watch Texas governor Rick Perry turning down Race to the Top.

Funny how all this stuff was fine when Bush was president. But extreme hypocrisy aside, Perry actually makes some good points about why Race to the Top is so manipulative, insidious, dangerous, and just plain wrong.

He claims Race to the Top will bring Texas a one-time payment of only $75 per student--and cost the state a lot more. Too bad a few more politicos don't do the math.

And look at the whining in the Houston Chronicle editorial.

This trio gives you a good picture of Race to the Top politics and the pull of money.

Texas Shuts Door on Millions in Education Grants

By Sam Dillon

Texas will not compete for up to $700 million in federal education money, Gov. Rick Perry said on Wednesday, calling the Obama administration's main school improvement grant program an unacceptable intrusion on states' control over education.

Mr. Perry's decision, days before a Jan. 19 deadline, interrupted months of work by Texas officials and a consulting company financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to prepare the application for the federal grant competition, known as Race to the Top. Texas had been eligible to win up to $700 million of a total of $4 billion the department will award for encouraging charter schools, improving teacher instruction, overhauling schools and joining an effort to adopt common academic standards.

"We would be foolish and irresponsible," Mr. Perry said, âto place our children's future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special-interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington."

Mr. Perry, who is seeking re-election in November, is locked in a tough Republican primary battle with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, and both candidates have been trying to appeal to conservative voters.

Texas is one of two states, (Alaska is the other) that last year refused to participate in a nationwide effort, supervised by the National Governors Association and encouraged by the Obama administration, to write common curriculum standards. That posture had put Texas at a disadvantage in the federal competition. But the state education commissioner, Robert Scott, argued in an interview in the fall that Texas was well-positioned to win because of what he characterized as his stateâs pioneering work in school reform. In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Scott said that his views had evolved and that the potential payoff for Texas had been too small to justify giving up state control.

"Even if we won the full amount, it would only run our schools for two days, so for that we werenât going to cede control over our curriculum standards," Mr. Scott said.

Mr. Perry's decision ended weeks of speculation about the stateâs intentions. Officials at the Texas Education Agency had already spent 700 to 800 hours preparing the stateâs proposal, and the Gates Foundation had spent some $250,000 to provide consultants to assist the state.

Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, the state's largest teachers union, said she supported the governorâs decision because the federal competition appeared to be leading toward adoption of a national test, which she opposes.

"I'm relieved because we've got enough problems with high-stakes tests already," Ms. Fallon said.

But Terry Grier, superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, disagreed.

"I'm disappointed," Mr. Grier said. "It was potentially a lot of money for our state. I'm not one to sell my soul for money, but I have 100,000 kids in Houston who donât read at grade level, and I donât agree with people who say resources donât make a difference."

Houston Chronicle Editorial: School dazed
Race to the Top is on. But Texas isnât at the starting line

Jan. 14, 2010

Across the country, states are passing laws, trying to whip their education systems into shape to compete for grants from a new federal program, Race to the Top, intended to reward educational innovation. Texas might have been able to win as much as $700 million for its cash-strapped schools. But we aren't at the starting line. In fact, we're unlacing our shoes.

It's especially strange because Race to the Top is intended to encourage states to reform their schools in ways that Texas pioneered. Standards-based testing? We've done it for years. Charter schools? We launched them before they were cool. Holding teachers and principals accountable for students' performance on those tests? Merit bonuses are nothing new for the Houston Independent School District. (If HISD could apply for Race to the Top money by itself, independent of Texas, its competitors would tremble.)

So what's Texas' problem? When Gov. Rick Perry nixed the state's application earlier this week, he explained that the money would come with too many federal strings attached. Mostly he complained that Texas would have to adopt a national curriculum. And his appointee, Education Commissioner Robert Scott, has gone so far as to say that the U.S. Department of Education's push for national benchmarks is âa step toward a federal takeover of the nation's public schools.â They seem to envision jack-booted thugs storming in, forcing our fourth-graders to ⦠what? pledge allegiance to the American flag before they offer their respects to the Lone Star?

That kind of rhetoric echoes Perry's empty threat to secede from the U.S. and to turn down federal stimulus funds (without which Texas wouldn't have been able to balance its last budget). Unfortunately, that sort of grandstanding seems to poll well among potential voters in the Republican primary. But it's no good for Texas â or for the U.S.

The fact is, the United States has a national interest in making sure that all American kids are well-educated. More than ever, our economic future and national security depend not on brawn but on brains. With global competition growing ever tougher, we can't afford to continue wasting so much of our potential.

And sadly, a lot of that wasted potential is here in Texas. Of the 50 states, we're No. 49 in the percentage of adults who've completed high school; and it's estimated that a third of our Texas high school freshmen don't make it to graduation.

How onerous would federal standards be? We recently sat in on a meeting with the Houston region's school superintendents, maybe the world's strongest proponents of local control of schools. They complained mightily about Texas laws that prevent schools from determining their own calendars and grading systems. But to our surprise, they offered no objections to national standards or curriculum.

A national curriculum, they say, wouldn't be much different from what Texas already teaches. Fourth-grade math is fourth-grade math, and who cares if a national test replaces the TAKS? Besides, even if Texas adopts a national curriculum, the state would remain free to require our kids to learn extra stuff â whether that's an entire seventh-grade class about Texas history or a single third-grade PE lesson on the Cotton-Eyed Joe.

The main difference a national curriculum would make? A single, national test would make it easy to compare scores in Houston to scores in Boston, and to see how Texas stacks up against Massachusetts. But the superintendents weren't worried. âWe don't mind having our performance measured,â said Duncan Klussmann, superintendent of Spring Branch Independent School District. âWhat we mind are rules that prevent us from doing our jobs.â

In other words: Texas isn't afraid of competition. And we shouldn't be sitting out this race.

— Governor Rick Perry & Sam Dillon & Editorial
YouTube speech & New York Times & Houston Chronicle


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