Setting the Standard in Education

Does this flood have a rainbow ending?

In Federal on July 2, 2010 at 4:13 pm

It seems like every ed blog has something to say about Rep. Obey’s EduJobs ammendment. There seems to be a lot of anger. Obviously, this is a direct blow to Obama’s reform plans. Democrats are lining up in opposition to progressive changes to education (or at least ignoring them by voting against them). I think Flypaper’s Stafford Palmieri has an interesting take. She says that the reduction from $3.4 billion to $2.9 billion could actually be a blessing in disguise. Just a few weeks ago, people were lamenting the possible egg on the ED’s face if they had to give some of the money back to the treasury because there aren’t enough states with worthwhile, feasible proposals. Now with less money, they can focus on the stronger applications. In the first round, only two states had strong enough applications to get money. Duncan would need to pick upwards of 15 states in the second round to put another $2.5 billion out there.

What's the big deal about a cloud, silver lining or not?

Mickey Muldoon responds by asking “What if silver lined a harmless cloud?” He poses three questions that I’d like to answer simply:

1. Not considering the cost or effects of a teacher bailout, would cutting the Race to the Top fund by $500M be better overall for American education?

I think this depends on what Duncan would do if he didn’t find enough strong applications. My initial reaction is that cutting money isn’t better. The Ed Department should have the money that it needs to fund the programs that it thinks can work. There’s no way to tell at this point how good the applications are, so who knows whether all of the money is needed? Even though some think that it might make the Education Department look bad to have money and not use it, wouldn’t it seem sensible of them? Everyone is always complaining about waste. The government is spending too much. Why not applaud a decision to only use as much as necessary.

2. If your answer to part (1) is no, then here’s the natural follow-up: is $4.35B the magic number?

I think it’s obvious from my first answer that there isn’t a magical number. We can only know how much to spend on a program after we know what the program involves. What if there were 20 states in round two that learned enough from round one to have proposals worth funding? Maybe more money is needed. It’s probably safe to say that the amount on the table is at least sufficient. Cutting 15% of the rest of the pot ($1 billion has already been earmarked for the assessment competition and round 1) might be OK, but it could also mean cutting a state out that was going to make some progress.

3. If Race to the Top was really worth $4.35B this time around, should it be funded into perpetuity?

If it was worth it, then I think it’s wise to continue it as long as states have work to do, such as getting rid of charter caps and seniority-based layoffs. The proper question is, “Was Race to the Top really worth $4.35 billion?” Compared to the $10 billion that may end up being spent to keep teachers in the classroom regardless of their proficiency, it’s probably going to end up worth it. We can’t really say yet, since we it will take some time to see the results of the changes states make.

Of course, this discussion could end up moot if the bill doesn’t even pass the Senate. We’ll just have to wait and see, since they are on break until next week. In the meantime, I’m going to look at the two applications for Race to the Test. Bill Tucker thinks it may be more important than Race to the Top.

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