Thursday, January 2, 2014

Race to the Top: Let's see if I've got this straight

According to the WNJ Editorial Board this morning:

Delaware didn't manage to spend the $119 million in four years as required by the grant.

What would you do with $119 million? 
What would you do if you only had a short time to spend it? 
And what would you do if the deadline came and you had not spent it all? 
Most of us would ask – politely, we’re sure – for extra time. 
Delaware is doing just that. As the spending deadline approaches, Delaware is expected to ask the federal government for a little extra time to allocate the state’s Race to the Topmoney

Delaware is not quite sure how much money remains to be spent.
That allocation is probably in the area of $10 million to $12 million, with a couple of million here or there still held by Delaware’s school districts.
Oh, and we have no real evidence that any of this has done any good.

Delaware competed in the Race to the Top contest and won first place, getting $119 million. 
What has come of it? 
The state used much of the money for standardized testing and evaluations of teachers. 
More was spent on training and bonuses for teachers and principals. 
Was it worth it? While many people have already formed their own ideas, it is probably too early to tell.

And--finally--there is no plan for what to do if the Feds say "No" or after the money all goes away following an extension year.

Quality of the reforms aside, the question that taxpayers should ask was raised recently by Ann Visalli, director of Delaware’s Office of Management and Budget. 
She pointedly asked state education officials what their plans are for the day the federal money disappears. 
What programs will stay? What programs will go? And who will pay for it? 
“We want to be able to know what the world will look like when this is over. I want to be able to see ‘here are the things that were funded by Race to the Top that we are not requesting from the state, and here’s what we are requesting,” Ms. Visalli said. “That’s the picture I need, and I anxiously wait to see that.”
So the situation (in fewer words than the WNJ uses) is this:  we didn't comply with the grant requirements, we're asking for an extension, we have no proof that the spending did any good, and we've got no plan for what to do when the money runs out.

Delaware Education policy under Governor Markell and our General Assembly in one sentence.

And if it has become so obvious that even the Markell Public Relations Bureau WNJ Editorial Board has to admit it . . . wow.

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