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Jeanne Allen: 'Race to the Top' Guidelines Diluted

CER Press Release
Washington, DC
November 12, 2009

Federal guidelines for the distribution of $4.3 billion in “Race to the Top” education funds to states are irresponsibly weak and filled with loopholes, according to the national nonprofit Center for Education Reform (CER). The long-awaited guidelines, which many education reformers hoped would push states to adopt meaningful education reforms, contain serious flaws.

The guidelines will provide states with a blueprint for developing their education reform plans – in return for federal funding – but, according to CER president Jeanne Allen, states that don’t embrace real reform may very well end up with federal dollars.

“Throughout the entire evaluation formula proposed by the Department of Education’s application, reform is deemphasized, and while states that are already doing good work will benefit, so might states that aren’t,” Allen said. “It is disappointing to see bold, exciting rhetoric on education reform from the Obama Administration turn into nothing more than lip service.”

Specifically, the “Race to the Top” – which had been touted as a boon for charter schools – now deemphasizes charters, even allowing states without charter school laws to qualify for federal funding. Additionally, the guidelines also deemphasize the need for gauging student achievement gains when calculating teacher merit pay plans. These two changes to the “Race to the Top” funding formula are directly contradictory to President Obama’s campaign platform and to recent statements by Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

CER has argued that states should not receive funding if they don’t eliminate anti-charter and anti-performance pay language in school district rules and in collective bargaining agreements; these fundamental policy provisions are not present in the Education Department’s guidance.

“The final ‘Race to the Top’ guidelines have moved the education reform finish line up and it doesn’t seem like it will take much effort to cross it,” said

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