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Race to the Top grants would drag down schools

Published: Fri, June 4, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

The race wouldn’t lead to the top

Despite considerable pres- sure from state officials, Youngstown’s teachers union, like half of Ohio’s school districts, said no to the federal “Race to the Top” grant program. I would be glad to offer an explanation: The program is riddled with controversy, and unlikely to ease local budget concerns.

The fraction of funding available to local districts would be tightly tied to certain objectives — teacher education programs and test development — rather than the myriad costs already straining school budgets. In Youngstown, where employees have received years of targeted professional development, teachers have called, “Enough already!”

The general public may be unaware that Race to the Top represents an historic shift in federal spending for education. It will replace the prior federal practice of providing additional funds to the neediest locations with a sort of political imitation of the game show, “Family Feud,” featuring state teams who strive to win points for their own application by most closely matching their responses to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s reform proposals. The grant requirements led Gov. Strickland to accede to changes in Ohio’s carefully constructed education plan, so that his team can congratulate themselves on a “good answer!” Yet, Duncan’s proposed reforms, including increasing standardized test stakes and proliferation of charter schools, have long been opposed by public educators as distortions of appropriate K-12 education.

Under the grant, districts and their local unions will have to open contracts and renegotiate touchy issues related to evaluation and compensation of teachers. For most cash-strapped districts, this is no time to offer bonuses or commissions when teachers raise a class’s test scores. Just completing the paperwork of the required plan will stress budgets. Ohio Superintendent Deborah Delisle has admitted that despite the addition of funding minimums, districts’ participation costs may exceed grant funding levels.

Education Week’s “Quality Counts 2010” report ranked Ohio’s educational system fifth in the nation. Yet the federal government demanded of all states the names of an arbitrary 5 percent of schools to be closed, and got a list of about 65 Ohio schools.

Especially in a recession, respect is due to districts and unions who said “no” because principles of authentic quality instruction outweighed a grab for short-term dollars.

Peggy Palma, Youngstown


1PXGhost(51 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Ohio's current budget was only balanced because the federal government provided STIMULOUS DOLLARS to artificially sustain our state (1.4 billion dollars) and our eduction system (933 million dollars in title 1 funds). Projections for Ohio's tex reciepts are expected to fall 8-10 percent by next fiscal year.

Without the money this program can offer, we will be faced with cutting upwards of 3 billion MORE dollars (maybe more) out of our next fiscal budget.

Teacher's Unions are worried about the "pay-for-performance" system because it could break the union's power in school contract negotiations. Yet, they won't tell their members that without this program they will face layoffs, furlows, and school closures.

Weigh your options, because you could be looking at joining a big portion of Ohio familys in the unemployment lines.

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2dreamcatcher52(140 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

OEA (and NEA) endorsed Obama in spite of his support for merit pay and charter schools. Now they have no choice but to endorse this latest scheme. They should have come out against it and exposed it for what it is. But they are in bed with the Democratic party and didn't have the courage to stand up for their members. They don't have to endorse either party. They should be standing up for teachers and I, for one, am sick and tired of their justifications.

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3PXGhost(51 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

@ Eduction_Voter - Pay for Performance would also allow a district to terminate non-performing teachers without regard to tenure.

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4PXGhost(51 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

@ Education_Voter

"Someday the taxpayers will realize that they have allowed the testing industry to take their money."

That, we can agree on.

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5PXGhost(51 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Wow. I don't think there's a single thing you wrote in that last post that I can disagree with. Have we found a common cause?

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6Springman(235 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

"Someday the taxpayers will realize that they have allowed the testing industry to take their money."



Most of us were well aware of this when 'No Child' was being considered.

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7UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

Time to open up Ohio schools and let the chips fall where they may. The unions should be happy to signup for this program that will allow them to get more money for better education or is there another idea here?

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8PXGhost(51 comments)posted 5 years, 1 month ago

The said truth of the matter is: take the money or not, there are going to be problems to come.

The Legislative Budget Committee says: If we assume that Ohio's tax receipts continue to decline as they are, for the next fiscal year, without additional Federal Money, we will be looking at a potential cut of 33% in state level education funding alone.

So, with this money, we end up with a goofy education system. Without it, we are looking at layoffs, furlows, etc.

Pick your poison, it's going to get worse before it gets better.

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9tookie(64 comments)posted 5 years ago

Fact is, we need to reward good teachers (merit pay) and have the ability to get rid of ineffective teachers. Youngstown schools, of all the districts in the country, should be involved in Race to the Top. It's a failing district that needs major, major change and the teachers union, unfortunately, doesn't want to be partners in pursuing such solutions Hopefully, the academic commission will make major change and that means taking control of the schools away from the teacher's union.

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