The Race to the Top (RTTT) education plan currently being pushed by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan should keep its acronym. What it should be renamed, however, is Race to the Takeover. This plan is flying under the radar, but it is one of the most "transformational" programs of Obama’s administration. This mandate will cede sovereignty of the states’ rights to educate Missouri’s children to the federal government.
This mandate involves state education departments submitting grants to the federal government for educational stimulus money. The grant is $4.3 billion to be divvied up to states for educational programs. Sounds good, right? Well, let’s look at what the state of Missouri will give up for this money and scrutinize this proposal. (The 300 page grant proposal can be accessed here.)
The plan reflects the belief that our schools need to be nudged by "choice architects" (pps 10 and 40) to steer educational choices for our children. The document was drafted on the basic tenet of this belief held by Cass Sunstein. This is the recurring theme of the Obama administration. We, the people, are ill prepared to handle decisions for ourselves and our children. We need the "nudging" by the government for correct choices.
RTTT will require the redistribution of teachers and principals (pps 13 and 75). "Highly effective" teachers and principals will be transferred to failing classrooms and schools. Local districts will have no power for their own staffing. Curriculum choices and testing protocols will be taken out of local and state control as Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will be decentralized into a regional service center (pg 67). These decisions will be made by a consortium of states, not by a state board or local district.
Now that you have an idea on what we will give up, what will we gain? We obviously gain federal control over another aspect of our life. We gain the possibility of a maximum grant of $250 million for a plan that is projected to cost $390 million (pg 257). We gain more infrastructure and more staffing requirements which will only be partially funded (pg 19). We gain an unfunded mandate after four years, as any federal money will be stopped after that time.
I believe there are two impediments to this plan. It is illegal as it usurps our state sovereignty, and financially, is it unsustainable. When did it become acceptable or legal for the governor, State Board of Education and school superintendents to sign away our sovereign rights?
Contact these entities and demand they immediately withdraw districts’ applications for RTTT. Initial grants will be announced in April and secondary grants will be announced in the summer. If the majority of districts withdraw, the state will withdraw its proposal. Ninety-nine percent of Missouri school districts did sign on to this plan, but many district officials complained they were pressured and the document was not ready for review until a few days before the signing deadline in January.
This proposal is akin to the health care bill. It was pushed on the parties in a rush and it is filled with vagueness on specifics. The one certainty in this proposal is the total control of the federal government. Does that sound familiar? Once again, the parents and taxpayers were left out of this proposal. As you read through the document, you should note that parents are mentioned twice in 300 pages. In fact, the "actors" who will drive this reform are: individuals (students, teachers, principals); education organizations (unions, reform organizations); and educational institutions (pg 11).
An aside, since when are reform organizations considered as an "education organization" and specifically, what reform groups are driving this proposal? You, as a parent, are not considered as an important aspect in your child’s education. Perhaps you are considered nothing more than the entity paying for this plan.
Missourians must demand the legislators not release any funds received for these mandates. Our legislators took an oath to protect our state sovereignty and we must demand they not accept any of these stimulus monies. The strings are too tight and they will strangle educational choices for our children. Contact your representative and senator and tell them NO. No more federal control over our daily lives. No to budgets we can’t sustain. No to spending of our tax dollars for a program that circumvented the legislative process.
Reclaim our sovereignty. Refuse RTTT—Race to the Takeover.
Our legislators took an oath to protect our state sovereignty and we must demand they not accept any of these stimulus monies. The strings are too tight and they will strangle educational choices for our children.