Though California has finally scrapped its firewall barring the use of student-achievement data in teacher evaluations—a must for states hoping to snare a Race to the Top Fund grant under the federal stimulus program—neighboring Nevada seems to be doing the opposite.
Nevada schools chief Keith Rheault says that state won’t apply for the first round of $4 billion in Race to the Top grants because of the state’s firewall, which would need a special legislative session to change.
And, based on recent comments, he seems less than thrilled about the grant program as a whole.
“If you’re desperate for money and you get a credit card offer in the mail, you read the fine print to see what the interest rate is,” Mr. Rheault said. “This, to me, is like a 35 percent interest rate, with all the federal reporting requirements and changes to regulations. But it just depends on how desperate you are for the money.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has made it clear that a data firewall is one factor that would put a state out of the running for a share of the Race to the Top money, the first of which is expected to go out to states early next year.
Nevada and Wisconsin have such laws—and California did until last week. Wisconsin lawmakers are considering a change, but Nevada appears to be the first state to remove itself from the first round of the Race to the Top competition.
The Nevada State Education Association has fought against linking student-achievement data such as test scores to teacher evaluations. The current law was added during a 2003 special session called to resolve a tax stalemate. A spokesman for Gov. Jim Gibbons, a Republican, said changing it could be an agenda item if a special session is called for other reasons.
But Mr. Rheault cautioned that changing Nevada’s law would not immediately make the state eligible for the Race to the Top aid because the competition requires states to have increased education funding between 2008 and 2009, and Nevada had to cut its funding. The state would also have to dedicate money for education after the end of the stimulus help.
A version of this article appeared in the October 21, 2009 edition of Education Week as Nevada to Sit Out ‘Race to Top’ Start