AP Photo/Alex Brandon
President Obama’s federal education dollars appear to have found a way around the states opting out of the Race to the Top (RTTT) competition by allowing districts to apply directly for funding. In a press conference on January 19, President Obama announced an additional $1.3 billion for an expansion of RTTT to districts.
President Obama may have been referring to Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) when he explained the reason for the expansion of RTTT, “So innovative districts like the one in Texas whose reform efforts are being stymied by state decision-makers will soon have the chance to earn funding to help them pursue those reforms.”
Governor Perry opted out of the RTTT competition on the grounds that the program will increase the federal government’s role in public education. He said at his press conference on January 13, 2010, “If Washington were truly concerned about funding education with solutions that match local challenges, they would make the money available to states with no strings attached.”
Last year, Perry declined to participate in the Common Core State Standards Initiative spearheaded by the National Governors Association because the Texas State Board of Education had already adopted the nation's first state standards to be tied to college-and-career ready curriculum standards for core subjects. Since a large part of the RTTT’s scoring is based on collaborating with other states on the college-and-career ready curriculum standards, the reasoning goes that Texas would be docked so many points in its RTTT application that Texas would not even be in the running for the prize money even if it had applied.
Governor Perry wrote Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education for the Obama Administration, enumerating his reasons for not participating in RTTT. In addition to listing the federal strings attached and the fact that Texas had already developed the same type of standards required in RTTT, he also wrote of the expensive state outlay of money and the future possible unfunded mandate that would be left when the RTTT money stops:
Adopting national standards and tests would also require the purchase of new textbooks, assessments and professional development tools, costing Texas taxpayers an estimated $3 billion, on top of the billions of dollars Texas has already invested in developing our strong standards. In a state with 4.7 million students, this amounts to more than $635 per student, many times what Texas is eligible to receive under the U.S. Department of Education’s RTTT funding guidelines.
Locally, Dallas Morning News reported that Jon Dahlander, the Dallas ISD spokesman, said that the district would be “very interested” in participating in a district-level RTTT as long as there were not too many requirements.
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