Rule by Funding and Memoranda
I’m one of two people in the audience of an “emergency” Tiverton School Committee meeting, which was called in order to approve a memorandum of understanding from the Rhode Island Department of Education for the state’s Race to the Top application, and the sense that I’m getting from the discussion is not encouraging.
Here’s the upshot: School committees are under a lot of pressure to sign the MOU so that the state can prove “political will” to implement the program to the federal government. The problem is that the document that the local officials are being asked to sign is apparently not wholly inclusive of the information on which they believe they’re voting. Some supposed facts are in a repeatedly changed FAQ document. Others were conveyed during in-person meetings. Some of it is in documents from the federal government. And the really-honestly-truly final document won’t be released until Monday.
So, in the name of chasing after taxpayer money, the people whom taxpayers have elected to guide their local investment in childhood education are being asked to sign on to mandates and requirements from state and national officials without, as far as I can understand, even receiving assurances that the higher tiers of government will provide more money than they’re requiring districts to spend.
Here’s an interesting point from School Committee Member Leonard Wright, who seems extremely suspicious of this whole thing: There is language in the memorandum that the district agrees to comply with the terms of the federal grant and a “RIDE subgrant” that apparently has not yet been produced.
And isn’t this FAQ point interesting:
Are there “supplement, not supplant” requirements for Race to the Top?
Race to the Top contains no “supplement, not supplant” requirements.
Furthermore, the language that Mr. Wright cited about a state “subgrant” suggests to me that the state could take advantage of the lack of “supplement, not supplant” language while still imposing that very rule on individual districts.
Another point that’s coming up is that the town is probably going to be subject to increasing regulations and mandates whether it signs on for Race to the Top or not. It’s the old “nothing to lose” lure. But imagine this outcome: The collapsing state causes a political surge for reform, among which is the elimination of state-driven mandates… except, of course, where those mandates are part of contractually agreed grant programs.
The school committee has added, as a condition of its agreement, stipulations that all program requirements will be fully funded and that the funding from Race to the Top would supplement, not supplant, allocated state and federal aid to the town.