Over the last year, eleven states and the District of Columbia won funding under the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, which awards competitive grants to states to implement education reforms that they design. In Tuesday’s election, nine of those eleven states held gubernatorial elections, and as the Quick and the Ed noted, “new Governors in the Race to the Top states will need to determine how, if at all, they will change their state’s implementation of their RTT application.”
One of these new governors is Florida’s governor-elect Rick Scott (R). And as Education Week noted, Scott’s campaign platform seemed to imply that he’s open to turning down Race to the Top money entirely:
In Florida, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, who narrowly lost to Rick Scott, had voiced strong support for her state’s winning, $700 million plan, which calls for increased graduation rates and for school districts to develop merit pay plans, among other steps. By contrast, Mr. Scott, vowed to “refuse temporary funding from the federal government that creates permanent spending in Florida” in his economic plan.
Scott never directly said that he would turn down Race to the Top funding, but his stance does imply hostility to grants of the sort upon which Race to the Top is built. Another potential stick in the spokes of his state’s Race to the Top plan is governor-elect John Kasich (R-OH), whose predecessor’s policies, which Kasich sharply criticized, were a key part of that state’s successful application.
There is some flexibility in the Race to the Top program to tweak applications without foregoing the money, and as Rob Manwaring pointed out, “it will be up to [Education Secretary] Arne Duncan to determine how many changes are too many, and whether he will threaten pulling the funding if the adjustments deviate too much from the original plans.” But while Kasich seems willing to just change education policy on the margins, Scott seems to buying into the stance adopted by conservative darlings like Govs. Rick Perry (R-TX) and Bob McDonnell (R-VA).
Remember, both Perry and McDonnell fashioned anti-government stances out of their refusal to apply for Race to the Top funds, making blatantly false claims about the program and scaremongering about federal takeovers of education. If Scott were to emulate those two and actually forego the funding, Florida would lose out on up to $700 million that school districts in the state are planning to put towards teacher training and implementing data systems for tracking student achievement.