Some states pass on ‘Race to Top’
Published 10:00 am Tuesday, June 1, 2010
About two dozen states are going back to Washington for another shot at billions in education grants under the “Race to the Top” program, but at least nine others with more than 7 million children are opting out of trying a second time.
For them, a chance at hundreds of millions of dollars wasn’t enough to overcome the opposition of teachers unions, the wariness of state leaders to pass laws to suit the program and fears of giving up too much local control.
Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming will all be on the sidelines for the second round, along with a handful of other states that didn’t apply the first time. So far only two states, Delaware and Tennessee, have been approved for the money.
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Michael Petrilli, an education analyst at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C.-based think tank, noted that none of the nine states opting out were among the 16 finalists in the first round.
“If you didn’t get into that Sweet 16 the first time around and you couldn’t get a serious reform bill passed, you didn’t have a very good shot,” he said.
This could be the last time “Race to the Top” money is given out. The U.S. Education Department will probably dole out the remaining nearly $4 billion in the second round and, Petrilli said, it’s unlikely Congress will allocate more.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the department was “thrilled with the level of participation we’ve seen” and the reforms enacted by the states that did apply “makes them all winners when it comes to furthering the state of education for our kids.”
In Minnesota and Indiana, fights between the Republican governors and the teachers unions derailed applications.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his education commissioner, Alice Seagren, blamed the state’s teachers union for thwarting changes in the Legislature that would have made a grant application more competitive. Seagren said the state had been “bought and sold” by the union’s influence.
Union president Tom Dooher was unapologetic. “The governor and his staff need to come to grips with the fact that the gimmicks they are selling are not what is needed to solve the problems of the modern-day classroom,” Dooher said in response.