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Race to the Top Winners Hitting Roadblocks

“Reform that is bought can easily be voted away once the federal coffers run dry.” – Jeanne Allen, CER, July 24, 2009

The Race to the Top program that awarded money in exchange for promises has hit expected roadblocks – impediments that are natural to a system that is disincentivized on a regular basis to restructure and improve operations.

As we pointed out at the beginning of the competition, states overpromised in their applications what they could get done to improve education. States wrote what reviewers wanted to see in order to win a grant, and now are faced with the real challenge of actually implementing these promises. New York won in the 2nd round, but we cautioned in the 1st round that “with constant opposition by teachers unions in New York, good luck getting any districts to support these education reforms, much less agree to implement them.” Today, the hostility between NYC education officials and the UFT is palpable and ten districts haven’t received any federal funds because they can’t reach an agreement regarding new teacher evaluations. The Empire state is but one example of good intentions gone awry. And while Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has made noises about pulling back funds, he simultaneously says that they are confident with more time states will get it right. NCLB might be everyone’s favorite whipping boy lately, but the consequence for not complying was real and resulted in money loss and more.

We hate to say we told you so, but without strong on-the-ground work of parents, advocates, and legislative leaders in each state who see that special interests have blocked educational opportunities and work to change that, these federal grants won’t bring about reform, just frustration.

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