“Rhode Island is a winner!”
That’s the subject line of an email from Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist announcing that Rhode Island came in fifth in the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Race to the Top competition. Frankly, I find the presentation of the entire give-away creepy.
If we begin with the belief that public education is a states’ rights matter, what we have here is an unelected federal bureaucrat using billions of our own money to elicit eager willingness of unelected state bureaucrats to give his office authority to judge and shape the education ultimately provided, and largely funded, at the municipal level. As I’ve opined before, the particulars may sound good, now, but they will dilute and expand until it’s just a matter of assumption that the local men and women whom we elect to school committees just have to do whatever the executive branch of the federal government says. And as I’ve also noted before, quoting Education Policy Director for the American Enterprise Institute Frederick Hess, the selling points of the “reform” are not as prominent in reality as they are in the headlines:
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.
And again, this is all being done with billions of dollars from an entity that’s trillions of dollars into deficit and will either have to pull the financial rug out from under its promises or increase our taxes heavily for us to maintain the privilege of doing what it says.