Race to the Top’s Dropouts

May 26, 2010 | Blog

UPDATED 5/28/2010

The deadline for state applications in Phase Two of the Race to the Top (RttT) competition is next Tuesday, June 1st. Only two states, Delaware and Tennessee, succeeded in winning funding in Phase One. The U.S. Department of Education has estimated that 10-15 states will win funding in Phase Two.

With the higher stakes — more states will be funded this go ’round and this could be the final competition (despite the Obama Administration’s request for a third round of RttT funding) — more skirmishes have broken out, particularly between would-be reformers and teachers’ unions. The nastiest of these disputes appears to have been in Minnesota, which apparently scuttled its application as a result. Just check out these quotes:

Governor Tim Pawlenty, 2012 Republican presidential aspirant: “Unfortunately, the DFL-controlled Legislature in Minnesota refuses to pass these initiatives because the they are beholden to Education Minnesota, which is the most powerful interest group in Minnesota. What we saw in this session should be an embarrassment to the DFL-controlled Legislature. They continue to put the interests of union members ahead of the interests of schoolchildren and education accountability.”

Education Commissioner Alice Seagren charged that the state had been “bought and sold” by Education Minnesota, the state teachers’ union and made “legislators afraid to step up.”

Education Minnesota teachers union president Tom Dooher said that Pawlenty was doing “a great disservice to the state of Minnesota” by deciding not to apply for the second-round grants. “The problem with the governor is that if you disagree with him about policy he calls you an obstructionist. Tim Pawlenty has had eight years to do something about eliminating the achievement gap. Now, given one last chance, he does nothing.”

Aggressive policy action has occurred in an attempt to win Phase 2 funding. Colorado‘s new teacher tenure and evaluation law has been widely heralded as a potential model for the nation. Florida‘s simplistic, poorly designed legislation, which would have based half of a teacher’s evaluation and salary on a single test score, was wisely vetoed by Charlie Crist, the state’s Republican governor and now-independent candidate for U.S. Senate.

Other states where notable policy changes have passed, potentially boosting Phase Two competitiveness, include Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland (although on-going disagreements and lack of union support may hurt), North Carolina, and Oklahoma. Legislative efforts continue at the eleventh hour in states like Kentucky, New York (5/28 update), and Pennsylvania. The District of Columbia’s IMPACT teacher evaluation system and recent teachers’ contract agreement could help its chances, but the lack of support from the Washington Teachers’ Union and contentious relationship between the WTU and DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee won’t help.

All states are busy gathering stakeholder support for their applications. The deal struck in Rhode Island to save the jobs of teachers in Central Falls should boost that state’s chances in Phase Two; the recent announcement that more local teachers’ unions as well as the state AFT chapter will sign onto the state’s application also bodes well. The New Jersey Education Association, which opposed the state’s Phase One application, announced its support for Phase Two. [6/1 Update: Apparently, Governor Christie undid this compromise at the 11th hour today.] Other states that have announced greater stakeholder support than in Phase One include Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio. Others have set this week as a deadline for districts and unions to support the state application.

Let’s look at which states are — and aren’t — competing in Phase Two. In total, 38 states (and DC) expressed an intent to apply in Phase Two, but by my count 35 states and DC will actually submit an application by the due date (ID, MN and WV filed intents but have since pulled out). By my count, six states which did not submit an application in Phase One are applying in Phase Two: Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada and Washington.

Here’s the full breakdown:

OUT (13)
Phase One Applicants (9)
Idaho
Indiana
Kansas
Minnesota
Oregon
South Dakota
Virginia
West Virginia
Wyoming

Phase One Non-Applicants (4)
Alaska
North Dakota
Texas
Vermont

IN (36)
Phase One Applicants (30)
Alabama
Arizona
Arkansas
California (applying in partnership with only six large urban school districts)
Colorado
Connecticut
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Illinois
Iowa
Kentucky
Louisiana
Massachusetts (state education commish has suggested state may not apply)
Michigan
Missouri
Nebraska
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
Rhode Island
South Carolina
Utah
Wisconsin

Phase One Non-Applicants (6)
Maine
Maryland
Mississippi
Montana
Nevada
Washington

PHASE ONE WINNERS (2)
Delaware
Tennessee

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