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NCLB Outrages

The Fight Over Education in Washington

This is a classic New York Times editorial, containing the usual disinformation. It could have appeared on the editorial pages of major papers across the country.

One could wish the editorialist would read other articles in the New York Times. He would do well to start with Michael Winerip's account of how Obama's plan is working in Vermont.


Congress is unlikely to take up its school financing bill, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, until next year. But teachers unions and other forces of the status quo are already trying to subvert the measure by discrediting President Obama’s signature education initiative, the Race to the Top, which requires the states to make reforms in exchange for federal grants.

The grant program has focused the country's attention on school reform and has angered the unions, especially by pushing the states to take student performance into account in teacher evaluations.

The attacks picked up in earnest this week, when a coalition of civil rights groups that included the National Urban League and the N.A.A.C.P. signed onto a statement that attacked not just Race to the Top, but the very idea of using competitive grants to spur reform.

President Obama came out swinging on Thursday, before the National Urban League in Washington. He pledged to protect Race to the Top, even if it meant using the veto pen. He seemed particularly incensed by the baseless claim that Race to the Top had shortchanged minority children.

He said the charge that it "isn't targeted at those young people most in need is absolutely false because lifting up quality for all our children -- black, white, Hispanic -- that is the central premise of Race to the Top. And you can't win one of these grants unless you've got a plan to deal with those schools that are failing and those young people who aren't doing well."

The president is not planning to apply the competitive grant system to mainstay, formula-financed programs, like Title I, which provides extra help to impoverished children. But he wisely plans to use the competitive approach for modestly financed new programs, like the one that will reward districts for innovative plans aimed at turning around consistently failing schools.

This week’s dust-up came just as the administration announced that 18 states and the District of Columbia had produced reform plans that qualified them for a share of $3.4 billion in grant money from Race to the Top. The winning states will be well positioned to enact reforms. But even those that do not win will benefit from the process of creating road maps to reform.

The protest document was quickly embraced by the National Education Association, the more retrograde of the country’s two large teachers’ unions. That means the administration will need to fight hard to get its school reform plan through Congress.

— Editorial
New York Times


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