Friday, March 12, 2010

Who cares who gets the Race To Top dough?

There's been quite a range of viewpoints within the school reform community about the 16 RttT finalists.  Here's Jay Mathews, quoting Andy Rotherham (who's on DFER's board) raising questions about some of the finalists:

Who cares who gets the Race To Top dough?

Jay Mathews

Not me. I know what I would like to happen, but I have given up hope. I think this is like throwing money out the fifth floor Post newsroom window. A few people who have good ideas will grab some of those bills blowing around 15th Street and use them for the betterment of mankind. But that's just luck. I don't think the feds, led by any administration, have the power to make sure the money they are handing out on schools is well spent.

Andy Rotherham, a commentator at eduwonk, however, is not only younger and smarter than me, but is so wise about this process that some states asked him to review their submissions. He said this about the first round winners:

"Some states with good apps here but OH and NY is not a great sign…and IL and CO were arguably bubble states at best and not sure what SC means given how out of step they are with parts of the administration's agenda. Hard to argue the political fix is in if SC is here though…And surprised that IN didn't pop more, they had an interesting approach to this."

This proves my point. Even at this preliminary stage some of the states Rotherham thinks are most likely to do what the administration (and he and I) want are being cut out. I will be reading him to see if, at the end of this contest, he thinks someone won who deserves it, and why.

By the way, I normally agree 98% with Mathews, but I couldn't disagree more with his sentiment that it doesn't matter who wins RttT money.  It matters ENORMOUSLY, both because some states will use the money well to drive genuine reform, while others will squander it, and also because if the winners aren't widely perceived as deserving, the whole reform freight train that RttT has catalyzed will come to a screeching halt and for sure Congress won't renew it.

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