The Race to the Top Scheme

Henry W. Burke and Donna Garner – Let’s pose a question. If you wanted to “sell” something that a number of people did not need, how would you do it? You might try setting up a contest where everyone competes for a significant financial prize. After all, Americans love to compete, especially when money goes to the winner.

Here are the contest details:  The competitors are strapped for cash; the competitors must give up some of their prized possessions in order to qualify; and the game organizers do not announce all of the rules until the game is well underway. How fair does this sound?

This is exactly what Barack Obama and U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have done with Common Core Standards (CCS) and Race to the Top (RTTT). 

Under Obama and Duncan, the federal takeover of our schools is rapidly spreading across our nation.  

It is not too late for the “contestants” to quit playing this game.  States that have taken no federal Common Core Standards (CCS) money can drop out of the game.  Even states that have received some of their Race to the Top funds could make a plea to Congress to pass a “hold harmless” clause that would allow these states some relief.

The questions that states must answer are, “Do we really want the federal government taking control of our public schools?  How much will it cost the cash-strapped states to handle the extra expense of  CCS / RTTT?”

The U.S. Department of Education created the Race to the Top program under the Stimulus Bill (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA) in early 2009.  With a federal grant of $4.35 billion, Arne Duncan had a very large carrot to lure the states to enter the competition. 

Have you ever been in a game where the game organizer made up the rules while the game was being played?  That is what the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) did in Race to the Top.  The Department issued numerous rules, corrections, and modifications while the competition was underway. 

Duncan waited until the state contracts were signed before he made the rest of the plan clear:  States would have to adopt the Common Core Standards (national standards) in order to qualify for Race to the Top funds.  Other “surprises” included national assessments, national curriculum, and an elaborate national tracking system to link student assessment scores to individual teachers.

The Education Department conducted the Race to the Top (RTTT) in two phases.  On 3.29.10, the Department announced that the two “winners” of Phase 1 were Delaware (#1) and Tennessee (#2). 

On 8.24.10, the Department announced the ten “winners” for Phase 2.  The winning states were ranked from #1 (first place) to #10 (tenth place).  The ten winners were:  #1 — Massachusetts, #2 — New York, #3 — Hawaii, #4 — Florida, #5 — Rhode Island, #6 — District of Columbia, #6 — Maryland, #8 — Georgia, #9 — North Carolina, #10 — Ohio.  (Note that neighbors D.C. and Maryland tied for sixth place, and there was no seventh place.)

The 12 RTTT winners and the Award amounts are shown in the Table, Race to the Top (RTTT) Awards.  The Table also lists the rank for each state in the Phase 1 competition and the Phase 2 competition.  Note that Alaska, North Dakota, Texas, and Vermont did not participateWe commend these states for not playing the game.

We reluctantly entered the word “award” in this Table.  The Education Department uses the term “award” to apply to the grant passed to the winning states.  On the dates mentioned above, the Department notified each “winning” Governor with an “Award Letter” that specified the dollar amount of the grant. 

Of course, federal awards or grants must come from somewhere.  We taxpayers pay huge amounts of money in taxes to the federal government, and it returns a small portion back to the states and calls it an “award” or “grant.”  This is not free money!   

Race to the Top (RTTT) Awards

(Rank, Awards, Award / Student / Year)

 



State

Phase 1

Rank

Phase 2

Rank

RTTT Award

Enrollment

(No. Students)

Award/Stud./

Year

Alabama

  37

  36

 

    748,000

 

Alaska

   –

  –

 

    129,000

 

Arizona

  40

  12

 

 1,161,000

 

Arkansas

  17

  21

 

    487,000

 

California

  27

  16

 

 6,435,000

 

Colorado

  14

  17

 

    827,000

 

Connecticut

  25

  25

 

    559,000

 

Delaware

    1

   –

 $119,122,128

    125,000

     $238

District of Columbia

  16

    6

   $74,998,962

      70,000

     $268

Florida

    4

    4

 $700,000,000

 2,771,000

       $63

Georgia

    3

    8

 $399,952,650

 1,735,000

       $58

Hawaii

  22

    3

   $74,934,761

    174,000

     $108

Idaho

  28

   –

 

    283,000

 

Illinois

    5

  15

 

 2,117,000

 

Indiana

  23

   –

 

 1,049,000

 

Iowa

  24

  22

 

    480,000

 

Kansas

  29

   –

 

    467,000

 

Kentucky

    9

  19

 

    692,000

 

Louisiana

  11

  13

 

    661,000

 

Maine

   –

  33

 

    185,000

 

Maryland

   –

    6

 $249,999,182

    828,000

       $75

Massachusetts

  13

    1

 $250,000,000

    941,000

       $66

Michigan

  21

  23

 

 1,635,000

 

Minnesota

  20

   –

 

    830,000

 

Mississippi

   –

  34

 

    496,000

 

Missouri

  33

  30

 

    919,000

 

Montana

   –

  35

 

    142,000

 

 

 

Source:

U.S.D.O.E.

2.21.11

http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/phase2-applications/index.html

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d09/tables/dt09_034.asp?referrer=list

Race to the Top (RTTT) Awards   (Cont.)

(Rank, Awards, Award / Student / Year)

 



State

Phase 1

Rank

Phase 2

Rank

RTTT Award

Enrollment

(No. Students)

Award/Stud./

Year

Nebraska

  39

  31

 

     290,000

 

Nevada

   –

  24

 

     463,000

 

New Hampshire

  38

  29

 

     198,000

 

New Jersey

  18

  11

 

  1,362,000

 

New Mexico

  30

  28

 

     331,000

 

New York

  15

    2

 $696,646,000

  2,669,000

       $65

North Carolina

  12

    9

 $399,465,769

  1,520,000

       $66

North Dakota

   –

    –

 

       92,000

 

Ohio

  10

  10

 $400,000,000

  1,802,000

       $55

Oklahoma

  34

  20

 

     649,000

 

Oregon

  35

   –

 

     565,000

 

Pennsylvania

    7

  18

 

  1,824,000

 

Rhode Island

    8

    5

   $75,000.000

     142,000

     $132

South Carolina

    6

  14

 

     706,000

 

South Dakota

  41

   –

 

     119,000

 

Tennessee

    2

   –

 $500,741,220

  1,006,000

     $124

Texas

    –

   –

 

  4,949,000

 

Utah

  19

  25

 

     573,000

 

Vermont

   –

   –

 

       89,000

 

Virginia

  31

   –

 

  1,238,000

 

Washington

   –

  32

 

  1,026,000

 

West Virginia

  36

   –

 

     281,000

 

Wisconsin

  26

  27

 

     861,000

 

Wyoming

  32

   –

 

       87,000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total U.S.

 

 

$3,940,861,000

49,788,000

       $71

Source:

U.S.D.O.E.

2.21.11

http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/phase1-applications/score-summary.pdf

http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/phase2-applications/summary.pdf

http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/phase2-applications/index.html

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d09/tables/dt09_034.asp?referrer=list

Notes:

1.  The latest available USDOE enrollment numbers are “Projected Fall 2009.”

2.  Award per student per year is based on the 4-year award period.

3.  The Total Award / Student / Year of $71 is based on the total RTTT awards and total students for the 12 RTTT winning states.

For the enrollment numbers in the Table, we used the latest available figures from the USDOE (“Projected Fall 2009″).  These numbers include public elementary and secondary schools (K-12) for each state.

The “Award / Student / Year” column needs some explanation.  Let’s use Delaware as an example.  Delaware placed No. 1 in Phase 1 and received a grant for $119,122,128; the state has 125,000 students in its K-12 public schools.  [$119,122,128 divided by 125,000 students = $953 / student]  For each state, the award period is four years.  [$953 per student divided by 4 years = $238 / student / year]  Then the Award per Student per Year = $238.

The Award per Student per Year allows us to keep education spending in perspective.  Public school education in this country has always been funded primarily at the local and state levels.  The federal funding is relatively minor.

Let’s take Massachusetts as an example.  The state received $250 million in federal RTTT.  That amount may seem large, but it represents only about 1/144 (0.70 %) of Massachusetts’ overall school funding for the four-year period.  Most states have similar percentages. 

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is charged with the task of collecting and reporting state education data, much of which has to do with local, state, and federal funding sources.   The TEA recently produced  the 2009-10 Texas Education Agency Pocket Edition of Texas Public School Statistics (published in December 2010).

According to the TEA’s Pocket Edition, the per-pupil spending figure for Texas is $11,567.  This figure includes the total per-pupil spending (i.e., expenditures) including local, state, and federal dollars.

Total Revenue Per Pupil — $9,965

Total Expenditures Per Pupil — $11,567 This figure includes local revenue (47.1%), state (42.9%), and federal revenue (10.0%).

Federal funding is nice when you are getting it, but what happens when the flow stops?  States and local governmental agencies got used to the Stimulus funds during 2009 and 2010. 

Now that the Stimulus funds are essentially depleted, states and cities are running deficits and are being forced to lay off workers.  In the same way, RTTT money is temporary, but the “pain” of Common Core Standards will last for many years to come!

Obama submitted his Fiscal Year 2012 budget on 2.14.11.  This budget provides $77.4 billion for the Department of Education.  It includes $1.4 billion for RTTT and a whopping $26.8 billion for a reformed Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA)!  (Please note that the White House announcement uses the $1.4 billion figure for RTTT.)  The link for the Education Budget is:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2012/assets/education.pdf

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  1. Florida Sells the Souls of Its Public School Students for $63 Each | Tennesseans Watching Federal & State Government

    [...] W. Burke and Donna Garner wrote a column in Education News titled, “The Race to the Top Scheme”. According to Henry and Donna: “Let’s pose a question. If you wanted to ‘sell’ something [...]

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