April 1 2010
Why Hinge Race to the Top "Reforms" on Opponents' Imprimatur?
Vicki E. Alger, Ph.D
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared Tennessee and Delaware Round One winners of the $4.35 billion "Race to the Top Fund" competition. Tennessee will receive $500 million, while Delaware will get about $100 million.
Forty states and the District of Columbia submitted applications for the first round of grants, and Delaware and Tennessee were among the16 finalists. "By passing up contenders such as Florida and Louisiana, widely seen as favorites, Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a message to state capitals that winners must garner broad support from teachers' unions and local school boards," according to the Wall Street Journal. And therein lies a core problem with the Obama administration's approach to education reform: Why should states' reform efforts be hampered by the very establishment that has blocked meaningful reform for decades? Conversely, if the public-schooling establishment does sign on to "reforms," are those reforms truly meaningful?
Snubbed states like Florida and Louisiana have significantly expanded parental choice in education. Data systems and standards are necessary but insufficient reform tools absent parents empowered to act on such information and choose the schools they believe are best for their children.