Race to the Cash Crop

I’m not sure one has to be a conspiracy theorist to think that government policies have become little more than a series of scams perpetrated on the American people. Take Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top concoction. Sure, there’s some favorable nods in the direction of reform and school choice, but those nods may be easily dispersed when eyes turn away. And even up front, as Frederick Hess points out, they aren’t really the meat in the stew:

A few of the 19 priorities rewarded states for moving on measures such as charter schooling and merit pay, with states earning 40 points (out of a maximum total of 500) for supporting high-performing charters and 58 points for using student-achievement results to improve teacher and principal effectiveness. But the vast majority of the points are awarded for compliance with often woolly federal criteria: 65 points for articulating an agenda and securing local buy-in, 10 points for prioritizing education funding, 20 points for providing effective support to educators, and so on. If you’re not entirely sure what these categories entail, welcome to the club; they reward states for procuring signatures of union support, for spending more on schools, and for adopting impressive-sounding professional schemes.
Andy Smarick, a Bush Education Department veteran who has painstakingly reported on RTTT, recently observed, “All this talk about revolutionary state change has really been overstated.” While RTTT enthusiasts talk of states’ lifting caps on charter schooling or removing “firewalls” that prevent student-achievement data from being linked to teachers, he noted that “the full story of states’ legislative changes is more complex and less exhilarating.” No state that previously prohibited charter schooling has enacted a new charter law to attract RTTT funds, and while Wisconsin technically relaxed its data firewall, it still prohibits student achievement from being used in teacher evaluations. Smarick explained this resistance to major changes as a consequence of union influence: “The problem is how much states had to give up to get that union support and buy-in.”

Take away the catchy buzz words meant to disarm natural opponents of schemes implemented by and for big, centralized government and what you’ve got is a huge bundle of money being used to persuade state and local officials and bureaucrats to seek special-interest buy-in.

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Tommy Cranston
Tommy Cranston
11 years ago

“I’m not sure one has to be a conspiracy theorist to think that government policies have become little more than a series of scams perpetrated on the American people.”
Actually, in this state, one would have to be a complete dupe (alias “progressive”) to even doubt it for an instance.

Ken
Ken
11 years ago

All this talk about RTTT funds is foolish. There will be plenty of funding for education even if RI does not win RTTT second round.
It was reported in the Honolulu Advertiser today that the State of Hawaii Education Department could be getting $91 million based on a bill making its way through Congress. The federal bill aims to help reduce education cuts, teacher layoffs across the U.S.A.
“According to the “Keep Our Educators Working Act of 2010” legislation written by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, some $23 billion would be distributed among the states in fiscal year 2010 by the U.S. Department of Education to preserve education jobs across the country. The measure comes as states face dramatic cuts to public education and hundreds of thousands of teacher layoffs nationwide.
The bill, which last week garnered the support of President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, is modeled after the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, or stimulus package, which provided Hawai’i with more than $129 million in emergency education funding last school year.”
Republican Governor Linda Lingle did a big OOPS when she asked the HI unions to take a 5% reduction in pay and Fridays as furlough day and all the unions agreed in order to balance the state budget.
She forgot about the kids in school trying to learn because the teachers in HI are state employees and were furloughed every Friday dropping HI’s education calendar this year from 180 days to 160 days lowest in nation!
I can’t wait to see this year state-wide test scores!

Monique
Editor
11 years ago

“what you’ve got is a huge bundle of money being used to persuade state and local officials and bureaucrats to seek special-interest buy-in.”
In what other field do professionals have to be paid more to achieve better results? This is even more obvious in Rhode Island, where teacher pay and student achievement are on opposite ends of the spectrum (to the considerable disadvantage of the children.) In that regard, by the way, why was the Central Falls teacher union offered more money?
OT: what’s the deal with race-to-the-top funding? Is it permanent or does it end at some point, leaving the state and locals to pick up a shortfall?

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
11 years ago

>>OT: what’s the deal with race-to-the-top funding? Is it permanent or does it end at some point, leaving the state and locals to pick up a shortfall?
Good question!
Some of the “stimulus” money had traps that while the money stops at some point, the states that took the money were required to keep in place items that were “temporarily” funded by the Feds.
Meaning that the states will be crying to D.C. for continued funding — centralizing more power in Washington and building yet another constituency for eternal tax and spend — or forcing tax increases at state and municipal levels to fund things desired by Washington.
Either outcome a “win” for Obama and his merry band of Democrat statists.

Bob
Bob
11 years ago

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