Race to the Top provides competitive grants to states to implement education reform measures, but receiving the money is contingent on a state actually following through on its submitted plan. And the Maryland legislature yesterday took a step toward dismantling its state’s blueprint:
A Maryland legislative committee voted Monday to reject a new regulation requiring that half of teachers’ evaluations be based on student progress, calling into question the future of a $250 million federal Race to the Top grant…The federal money was awarded in part because Maryland promised that student progress would be such a large component of the evaluations, and President Obama has encouraged such changes.
Meanwhile, in Ohio, Governor-elect John Kasich (R) may endanger his state’s grant, according to the Columbus Dispatch:
Ohio could lose more than $400 million in federal Race to the Top funds if Gov.-elect John Kasich follows through with his plan to dump outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland’s education overhaul…Although Kasich said during the campaign that he will scrap Strickland’s evidence-based model for distributing state aid to schools, a spokesman for the incoming governor said he is supportive of “concepts” included in Ohio’s Race to the Top plan.
There is some flexibility for tweaking Race to the Top plans, but wholesale changes could lead to funding being pulled. “If any state significantly changes the plan, it will be putting all Race to the Top funding in jeopardy,” said Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for the Education Department, adding that “what was ‘significant’ would be determined on a case-by-case basis.”
As the New York Times editorial board put it, “the Race to the Top initiative won’t solve this country’s education problems by itself, but it is focusing attention on the right issues and moving them up the national agenda.” But it won’t work if state lawmakers backtrack when the political winds change.