“Race to the Top” or Race to the Loan Sharks?

Who knows more about extortion, me or you? – Tony Soprano

Here’s another example of government dictating over local districts with money on a string. If 281 is qualified for and takes this money from MN Race To The Top, they can’t back out and will be forced to comply with their requirements. From the Sun-Post:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan earlier said, “Race to the Top is the equivalent of education reform’s moon shot.”

Districts who are interested must comply with stringent requirements, including a promise to ratify Q-Comp, a tool to reward top teachers, by July 1, 2012.

The catch is that school districts are being asked to sign no-escape contracts by Jan. 13, 2010, without knowing the specific details.

“There are an enormous number of strings attached,” said Peter Eckhoff, president of the 990-member Robbinsdale Federation of Teachers (RFT). “The most daunting is that we need to sign an agreement by Jan. 13, 2010, if we want to participate, and there’s no opt-out clause.”

Eckhoff said teachers’ union attorneys have advised him not to sign any documents until more information is available.

In addition, he cited “excessive reluctance from my [union] leadership,” given the large number of unknowns.

“At this point, I find myself beyond overwhelmed with the amount of detail and the enormous mountain we need to climb without the ability to escape,” Eckhoff said. “I have no authority from my members to sign a non-binding contract at this time.

“I’m getting nothing but caution signs and ‘slow down’ at every turn.”

Did you catch that red flag above?

The catch is that school districts are being asked to sign no-escape contracts by Jan. 13, 2010, without knowing the specific details.

Boardmember Patsy Green seems cool with taking the money and dealing with the loan sharks later:

“Any money we get has strings,” Green said. “I’m not going to be deterred by that. We tried Q-Comp four years ago when it was new. We were taken by surprise; we’ve been interested in Q-Comp. A lot of other districts have developed plans that are being very successfully implemented. Where are the roadblocks within our own school district community?”

But, according to union president Eckhoff:

The teacher’s union and District 281 School Board have explored Q-Comp in the past, and have not yet been successful in implementing the plan.

There’s the rub. Unions don’t like merit over seniority.  The Wall St. Journal digs a bit deeper on union resistance:

The Administration can expect more such opposition to “Race to the Top.” School choice is anathema to the nation’s two largest teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, which also oppose paying teachers for performance rather than for seniority and credentials.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel told the Washington Post last week that charter schools and merit pay raise difficult issues for his members, yet Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said states that block these reforms could jeopardize their grant eligibility. We’ll see who blinks first.

The Patsy Green who’s willing to grab the money is the very same who opposes charter schools in our district (as the unions who supported her re-election). That could badda-bing the whole deal. Would 281 ratify Q-Comp, bring in charter schools and raise the performance, along with a chance of getting this award, with unions against this?  Students would benefit greatly from Q-Comp and reform, but not the unions. Now we understand why Tony Soprano saw a psychiatrist.

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One Response to ““Race to the Top” or Race to the Loan Sharks?”

  1. give2attain Says:

    This should make for some interesting discussions “within the family”…

    Standardized National Consistent vs Unique Localized Varying.

    I like having one national military, not sure what the pros/cons of having one educational system would be. I am sure the liberals will dislike the standardization… And pretty sure the conservatives will see a brain washing conspiracy.

    More to come I am sure…

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