Monday, January 11, 2010

Two State Unions Balking at 'Race to Top' Plans

By Stephen Sawchuk

Here's an article about the Florida and Minnesota unions threatening to withhold their support for their states' RttT applications, with a nice quote from DFER's Charlie Barone:

Teachers' unions in at least two states are threatening to withhold endorsements of their state's Race to the Top applications, which could jeopardize the states' chances of winning the coveted federal dollars.

In a letterRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader printed as an advertisement in the Tallahassee Democrat, Florida Education Association President Andy J. Ford discouraged local union affiliates from signing an agreement to implement a state plan that, among other things, would require districts to base teacher evaluations and compensation bonuses heavily on student test scores.

"Any sense of collaboration is absent in your proposal," Mr. Ford wrote in the Dec. 17 letter to Florida Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith. "Your approach is prescriptive, top down, and unreasonable."

The president of Education Minnesota, Thomas A. Dooher, said he will also advise local affiliates not to sign off on the state application unless officials there agree to changes, including dropping a requirement that participating districts implement a pay program that has been voluntary for districts.

The Race to the Top program, part of the economic-stimulus legislation passed last year, has been problematic for the national teachers' unions because of its heavy emphasis on using student achievement to measure teacher effectiveness. Now the action has moved to the state and local level, as states prepare applications for the Jan. 19 deadline for the first round of funding.

The $4 billion program is forcing states to engage in a delicate balancing act of aggressively pursuing the money while maintaining support from state and local union affiliates.

"We're bumping up against a reality where the teaching profession is resisting doing a lot of things that are pretty sensible," said Charles Barone, the director of federal policy for Democrats for Education Reform, a political action committee that has been highly critical of teachers' unions. "We're in for a showdown. The unions aren't going to give in most cases, and I think the [Obama] administration is going to have to see what it's got in front of it."

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