Race To The Top?

Posted by Jason | Posted in Education, Government | Posted on 25-11-2009


There has been a lot of buzz about Obama’s Race to the Top program to improve public education. Currently, the Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Newt Gingrich and Rev. Al Sharpton are traveling the country together to promote the program.In this morning’s Wall Street Journal, former congressman Harold E. Ford Jr, a former IBM Chairman and a founder of The Broad Foundations wrote an article calling for accountability for President Obama.


For decades, policy makers have talked about significantly improving public education. The problem has been clear: one-third of public school children fail to graduate, there are embarrassing achievement gaps between middle-class children and poor and minority children, and the gap between our students and those in other countries threatens to undermine our economic competitiveness. Yet for the better part of a quarter century, urgent calls for change have seldom translated into improved public schools.

Now, however, President Barack Obama has launched “Race to the Top,” a competition that is parceling out $4.35 billion in new education funding to states that are committed to real reform. This program offers us an opportunity to finally move the ball forward.

To that end Mr. Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are pushing states toward meaningful change. Mr. Duncan has even stumped for reform alongside former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Yet the administration must continue to hang tough on two critical issues: performance standards and competition.

First, I must say Newt Gingrich in pursuit of trying to be bipartisan has become a stooge of the left. If he thinks giving his support is going to get any real reforms, he’s become Charlie Brown hoping Lucy won’t move the ball this time. What’s worse is no one will no if he doesn’t agree with the ultimate outcome, but his name will be used for what will be called a “bipartisan effort”.

Already the administration is being pressured to dilute the program’s requirement that states adopt performance pay for teachers and to weaken its support for charter schools. If the president does not remain firm on standards, the whole endeavor will be just another example of great rhetoric and poor reform.

Competition among the states is also vital to reform. The administration is resisting the temptation to award funds to as many states as possible. And that’s good. To be effective, Race to the Top funds cannot become a democratic handout. Competition brings out the best performance. That’s true in athletics and in business, and it’s true in education.

Wow, all the sudden liberals realize competition among states is vital to reform, and competition is what brings out the best results? Who said progress isn’t being made. If they now realize this, can we make more moves back towards federalism, in which we had states competiting? Better yet, how about we get the federal government out of education altogether? How can you have competition when the government always promotes one size fits all policy on all states? Can we remove much of the federal laws and allow states to compete for the best standards of living? Citizens can then again vote with their feet. When the federal government creates national laws, citizens cannot hold states accountable. It doesn’t matter where you go, you still have to deal with the federal law. Your only choice is to leave the country, which ultimately harms our country.

The old way of doing business would be to spread around the money so no one could be held accountable. The new approach is to give governors authority and responsibility, and then hold them accountable for results.

For decades, adult interests have been at the forefront of public education. Reform has been derailed by adults who wanted to protect the status quo and enjoy lifelong benefits. This time the focus will be on learning in the classroom. What’s important is that the administration is demanding that every child receive an education that prepares him or her for college or for work. Without that we will continue to be sidetracked by insignificant issues.

Again wow, some truth from these guys. Ok, so now I must ask if we know this, then why aren’t we redoing all the federal dollars? Why are we continuing to spread money around?  According to the Department of Education’s website here is how much money they are spreading around with no accountability.

ED currently administers a budget of $62.6 billion in regular FY 2009 discretionary appropriations and $96.8 billion in discretionary funding provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

via U.S. Department of Education Budget Office.

Wow, imagine what we could do if we actually focused over $150 billion on the classroom? Instead you have teacher’s unions setting up life long cushy jobs and retirement plans that private sector workers could only dream about.

States that have the track record and leadership in place to implement Mr. Obama’s aggressive reform menu—of enforcing rigorous academic standards, creating data systems that track individual student performance, ensuring teacher quality and effectiveness, and turning around failing schools—deserve the funds to show that our public schools can again lead the world.

We have yet to prove, on a systemic basis, that we can dramatically improve America’s public schools. Race to the Top is a chance to start small, hold states accountable, and expand proven reforms to the rest of the country.

via Harold E. Ford Jr., Louis V. Gerstner Jr.,And Eli Broad: Race to the Top in Education – WSJ.com.

Ok, here is the root of the problem. You are rewarded based on your record of implementing “Mr. Obama’s agressive reform menu”. The problem is the whole damn thing is captive to politics. Assume this policy improves results. After Obama is replaced, you then have to worry about who’s menu is next? I’m not saying Obama’s menu is good, because I don’t know what it is. The problem is you hold the carrots way above where the work actually takes place. The further you get away from the end participants, the harder it is for you to dictate good policy and the harder it is to know what’s working.

If you want real reform, the federal government should get out of education. Governors should then open education to all providers public and private. Parents should be able to take either their own taxes or their allocation of taxes per student to any school they want. This would generate massive competition and a massive improvement in the education of children in this country. Even the writers of this article admit that competition is what generates results. Are they advocating only a little competition? Don’t they want spectacular results, or are they too afraid they’d loss their political power?

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