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Monday, May 10, 2010

On May 12, tell school board to vote no to RTTT

By Laurie H. Rogers


(Updated May 30, 2010: see comment at bottom.)

On May 12, at 7 p.m. Spokane Public Schools board directors will vote on whether to support Washington State's Race to the Top application. I'm asking you to attend that board meeting, or call school board directors, and tell them to vote no. Ask others you know to come or to call. Your rights as a citizen, parent, teacher and taxpayer hang in the balance.

Race to the Top represents a de facto federal takeover of public education. Its intent is unconstitutional and banned in 20 USC 3403. This bare fact is not stopping people at federal, state and local levels from enthusiastically pressing for a handover of state rights and responsibilities for public education to the federal government.

At the school board's May 5 work session, Spokane Superintendent Nancy Stowell articulated her reasons for why the school board should vote to support Washington's Race to the Top application. Note that none of these reasons has to do with improving student learning.

Nancy Stowell argues (paraphrased, unless in quote marks): Laurie Rogers argues:
Almost everyone else is doing it. 1. Not true. Some states, districts, and policy-makers are saying no. Others are hesitating.
2. Maybe those who are saying yes are making a mistake.
3. If everyone said no, it wouldn’t happen.
Race to the Top is coming, so Spokane might as well get some money for it. 1. This is a revolting, embarrassing argument. When a bad thing looms, we should just sit back and get money for it? What does that make us?
2. This is not "their money," "the money," "federal money," or "some money." This is taxpayer money, all of it. And taxpayers should have a say in how it is spent. Once public education is managed at the federal level, this right will be de facto removed, possibly forever.
Spokane would get about $6.4 million over four years. 1. Half of all "grant" money for Race to the Top stays with administrators at the state level. (That's their cut of the take.) So, if the total is $250 million, the state gets $125 million.
2. IF Washington State gets all $250 million dollars it could get, Spokane will get $6.4 million over four years, which is less than $60 per student per year.
3. Much of the $56.82 per student per year will pay for administrative overhead and bureaucracy. How much will go to the classroom? Any?
Most of what's in the RTTT application will be required by the recently passed Senate Bill 6696. This is a circular argument. SB6696 was expressly designed to set Washington up to apply for RTTT. But SB6696 is not in stone. It can be reversed.
Many educators said "hallelujah" to SB6696 and said it didn't even go far enough.
SB6696 takes us forward to doing business very differently from how we've been doing it.
1. And there you have it. I urge you to read SB6696. It was a bad bill that should not have been passed. It is just the beginning of more bad policy.
2. SB6696 shows you exactly why RTTT is all wrong.
Spokane will have "better positioning" to be "part of the reform movement." What does this even mean? Education is ALWAYS being reformed. How does RTTT help the students learn better?
People will ask whether Spokane is on board. Tell them Spokane said no to this federal takeover of public education and to another complete waste of billions of taxpayer dollars.
We have 90 days AFTER getting the money to come up with a plan for spending it. Superintendent Stowell doesn't have a plan now? So, it's get the money, then figure out how to spend it?
The money is earmarked for things required by U.S. Secretary Arne Duncan. 1. Superintendent Stowell acknowledged that there will be "considerable oversight" of RTTT spending and procedure. She has already complained about the punitive nature of NCLB. Constant hovering by the federal government already takes precious time, money and resources away from the classroom.
2. Superintendent Stowell acknowledged that not everything that is required by RTTT will actually be useful for our students.
3. If RTTT is implemented in this state, bureaucrats in Washington, DC, will decide how to spend our money, educate our children, set policy for our state, assess our teachers - perhaps bargain with our teachers - and run our school district.
4. If you think Arne Duncan has all of the answers, remember that he will not be there forever.
Spokane is "desperate" for money. "We're going after every dollar we can." 1. The Department of Education says $658 billion was spent (from all sources) last year on K-12 education. Much of this was poorly spent. It just vanishes, spent on things that have little public accountability and nothing to do with the classroom.
2. Look at the plans for Race to the Top -- at the 50% going to the state, plus another (unknown) percentage for local administration. All of this vs. the pittance that goes to the classroom.
Signing on to the state application doesn't "bind us" to doing anything. I keep getting told this, by the ED, the governor's office, and state and district superintendents... I don't see anyone offering a plan or conditions for saying no. Don't believe this false reassurance. None of these people will say no.
We can apply for more money under other aspects of the application. 1. Policy will continue to be set by running after money, instead of doing what is best for the children.
2. What is best for the children has to do with what happens in the classroom. Little of the RTTT money is destined to go there.
This is a quick turnaround, so we have to decide now. 1. The deadline for Washington's application is on June 1, the same day as the projected release of the final draft of the national standards ("common core standards"), the adoption of which is required as part of a successful application.
2. Previous drafts of these national standards indicate that they're weaker than our own state standards.
3. No one will have a chance to see or comment on the final draft of the national standards before Washington's application is sent in.
4. Why the big rush? Why are administrators not taking a moment to ask hard questions about this critical shift in policy?
The two successful state applications had huge district sign-on. This argument is a red herring. It doesn't support any supposed benefits of the application itself.
"Many educators" believe that if we want our children to be able to compete, we need common standards that all states accept. The national standards will bring needed consistency.1. Having "common" standards isn't what helps children compete. Having GOOD standards that lead to GOOD curricula is what helps them compete.
2. The national standards that are required as a part of RTTT have so far been WEAKER than Washington's state standards.
"The common core standards is a very small part of this." The national standards are a HUGE part of this. The national standards are already leading to national tests and plans for national curricula. At that point, the federal government will control the K-12 classroom.
This gives us the opportunity to make some changes we've been wanting to make. There is nothing stopping this district from making changes it wants to make. However, in exchange for a few dollars, it will be forced to make changes it should not be making.
If we say no now, we can't say yes later. "Buy NOW or miss out" is a red herring. If Spokane says no, it will be harassed to say yes later. There will always be another chance to say yes to this federal takeover.
The real question is: If Spokane says yes now, will it ever have an opportunity later to say no?

Many people want Spokane to sign on: President Obama, Secretary Duncan, Governor Chris Gregoire, Superintendent Randy Dorn, various unions (WASA, AWSP, WEA and WSSDA), and Superintendent Stowell. This is some heavy-duty pushing. None of these people have articulated how RTTT money will help students learn better. Why the big rush? Why the heavy coercion? Why are they not asking nor answering hard questions about this critical shift in policy? Why has so much of the federal and state process on RTTT been done away from the public eye?

I am asking you to go to the school board meeting on May 12 and tell the school board to say no to supporting Washington State's Race to the Top application. If you can't go, please write to them or call them individually. This might be the last chance you get.

(Update May 30, 2010: Comment from Laurie Rogers.
On May 12, 2010, The school board voted 3-2, with Dr. Jeff Bierman and President Sue Chapin dissenting, to sign on to Race to the Top. The argumentation for signing on was as weak as the argumentation noted above. Directors didn't answer the concerns from the public - or even concerns from within their own ranks. It was a truly embarrassing display. This school board sold its teachers, parents and students for a nickel it isn't even certain to get. Shameful.)

Please note: The information in this post is copyrighted. The proper citation is: Rogers, L. (May, 2010). "On May 12, tell school board to vote no to RTTT." Retrieved (date) from the Betrayed Web site: http://betrayed-whyeducationisfailing.blogspot.com/

4 comments:

bloviator said...

Of course RTTT money will help students to learn better! Learn to re-write our history books, degrade our Constitution, learn the underpinings of Social Justice and join in the beginnings of the new Order of Socialism of our country. No more middle class, ugly capitalism or dreaming by the individual! Monies belong to the government to help the 'poorer class'. So you want change, then vote 'Yes'. But if you want a healthy US of A - VOTE NO,NO,NO!!!!

Anonymous said...

I don't get the part where its unconstitutional.

The Spending Clause permits the feds to attachs conditions to funds it offers the states. States are free to opt out of taking the money.

So how is it unconstitutional?

Laurie H. Rogers said...

Anonymous, thanks for the question.

On the U.S. Department of Education Web site, this is the acknowledgement of state rights over public education:

"Please note that in the U.S., the federal role in education is limited. Because of the Tenth Amendment, most education policy is decided at the state and local levels. So, if you have a question about a policy or issue, you may want to check with the relevant organization in your state or school district.

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/landing.jhtml

Even the ED still acknowledges state rights. (Expect this message to change at some point.)

RTTT is not really about money. It has the federal government setting policy for the states, and that is what is prohibited. That's why so many people left their offices to push the states so hard on RTTT. They would never have done it for $4 billion. They did it because it is the gateway to other things.

They do not give a flip what you and I think about it. I filed a FOIA request with the Department of Education in July 2009, asking questions about RTTT. Since then, I have called and emailed to follow up. As of June 2010, I have not received any figures or any papers relative to that FOIA request. That's how it will be.

Not only is RTTT unconstitutional and its intent prohibited in the U.S. Code - 20 USC 3403 - it is also being done on the sneak.

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