Educational Enigmas

The National Journal has an online debate among education experts addressing this question: "As states prepare their Race to the Top applications, what is more important: Obtaining union buy-in or implementing bold reform ideas?"

You can read responses from such luminaries as Andrew Rotherham, Andy Smarick, Tom Vander Ark, Deborah Meier, Diane Ravitch, Most echo Ed Sec Arne Duncan’s admonishment that strong reform tops weak consensus, while others don’t. Among the respondents is our very own David Sciarra, Executive Director of the Education Law Center, who has this to say:
Secretary Duncan has called the crisis an "education catastrophe." He's right. So it's hard to fathom how the Education Department (ED) can forge ahead with the RTT competition in the face of this near 50 state financial meltdown. Putting aside the expert debate about the educational value of the RTT reforms, ED needs to rethink the RTT strategy in light of the extraordinary fiscal stress in state education budgets…There’s still time to call it off.
Here’s where we get confused. Race To The Top is a federally-funded stimulus program for states who develop coherent strategies to improve student growth, prepare students to succeed in college, develop effective teachers and principals, and turn around the lowest-performing schools. Such an agenda echoes ELC’s own core value, which it defines in its Mission Statement: “if given the opportunity, all children can achieve high academic standards to prepare them for citizenship and to compete in the economy.” So what’s up with the animus? Given the deplorable state of our urban schools (who educate the very children ELC advocates for) and the commonality of purpose between ELC and RTTT, wouldn’t alliance be more logical than defiance?

Yeah, yeah. It's all political (we hear cynics sniffing). ELC's Trustee is Vince Giordano, Executive Director of NJEA, stalwart foes of RTTT and all things Christie/Schundler. We don't buy it. Something's missing. We'll keep looking for it.

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