From Formula to Competitive Teacher-Quality Grants?

By Stephen Sawchuk — October 01, 2009 1 min read

Over at Politics K-12, Alyson Klein notes that the Obama administration seems to favor competitive grants, rather than formula grants, in its approach to education funding.

It’s a smart observation, and although I’m reading the tea leaves a bit here, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the administration try to advance more such competitive grants during the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The big issue at work here is that in shifting from formula to competitive grants, you go from grants where everyone gets a slice of the pie to ones where there are definite winners and losers. We’re already seeing that in Race to the Top: The edu-community’s latest parlor game consists of trying to figure out how many states will actually receive RTTT grants.

Nearly all the cash that the feds put into teacher quality is in the $3 billion Title II state grants. Title II is less a coherent program and more of a funding stream, since states and districts can do dozens of things with their funds. Now, imagine if that money were put into discretionary, tightly tailored grants along the lines of the Teacher Incentive Fund or other competitions to support recruitment, retention, evaluation, and compensation.

House lawmakers took a crack at the idea in 2007, carving out three competitive programs in a revised Title II draft. But that proposal never gained much traction on the Hill.

In this story, I reported at length on the challenges of shifting Title II from formula to competitive grants.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.