Monday, March 08, 2010

No State Left Behind?

Here's an editorial in tomorrow's WSJ, that I think is wrong-headed (for the reasons cited above), but on the other hand, I'm delighted that there's continued pressure to make sure this doesn't become politicized and that there will only be a few, deserving winners:

·         REVIEW & OUTLOOK, WSJ editorial

·         MARCH 6, 2010


No State Left Behind?

Obama's Race to the Top is trying to make too many people happy.

We weren't the only ones scratching our heads Thursday after the Obama Administration released a list of state "finalists" for $4.35 billion in Race to the Top education grants. Some of the Administration's biggest boosters also seemed perplexed.

Joe Williams of Democrats for Education Reform said that New York's appearance on the list of 16 finalists was "baffling." Andrew Rotherham, who writes the left-leaning Eduwonk blog, noted that Ohio's presence on the list "is not a great sign." New York has a law in place that prevents student test scores from influencing teacher tenure decisions. Ohio allows teachers unions to decide when student data can be used to evaluate instructors. Both states cap the number of charter schools that are allowed to operate.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan has repeatedly indicated that such policies would hurt a state's chances of receiving a grant, not make it a finalist. And he's gone out of his way to praise states that have removed barriers to school choice and using student records to identify good teachers. There were 41 applicants in total, and no one was surprised that reformist states like Florida, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Louisiana made the cut. But so did Kentucky, which doesn't even have a charter law.

The Education Department says that state applications were graded using a complex point system and without direct input from the Secretary, though Mr. Duncan ultimately will decide next month which states receive a grant. No doubt it's just coincidence that 10 of the 16 finalists, including politically important Ohio, have a Democratic governor. The eleventh, Washington, D.C., is also run by a Democrat.

Mr. Duncan insists that most of these states will be disappointed, and we hope he sets the grant bar high. But the expansive nature of this list, which includes so many obviously undeserving states, is the result of a political process that has put Mr. Duncan under enormous pressure to make too many people happy.

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