Education Funding

Race to Top Unlikely to Live Up to Hype, Critic Says

March 26, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Race to the Top is overhyped.

That’s the bottom-line conclusion from Andy Smarick, who has been one of the most reliable watchdogs on all things related to the economic-stimulus package’s nearly $100 billion in spending on public education.

In a new report that is his third in a series on the stimulus, Smarick, an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who served in the U.S. Education Department under President George W. Bush, argues that the promises of the $4 billion Race to the Top competition—such as bringing groundbreaking changes to states’ teacher policies—are likely to fall short.

That’s because most states—even those, like Louisiana, that have been widely viewed as the most likely to win Race to the Top grants—haven’t changed much, if anything, in their education laws and policies, Smarick contends.

“All this talk about revolutionary state change has really been overstated,” Smarick said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. Rick Hess, who directs the education policy shop at AEI and writes his Straight Up blog on edweek.org, was also on the call and seconded everything Smarick had to say. (Check out Rick’s own post on Smarick’s report here.)

Both Smarick and Hess said that Education Secretary Arne Duncan and his Race to the Top team should have selected a smaller field of finalists than the 16 states that were ultimately chosen as possible winners of round one. They also said (Smarick said he was 95 percent certain, while Hess went for the full 100 percent) that the department made a mistake in putting such a premium on getting “buy-in” from teachers’ unions in the scoring of applications.

“The problem is how much states had to give up to get that union support and buy-in,” Smarick said.

When I asked which states they would have put in the finalist bracket, neither Smarick nor Hess was willing to name names, though Smarick did say Florida’s application “was pretty darn good.” I’m not sure how he’s privy to this tidbit, but Hess said several reform-y types in Colorado, which is a finalist, are hoping the state won’t win round one. They are hoping to use a round-one loss as leverage to pass some teacher-effectiveness-related legislation, he said.

As most of you know, the Obama administration wants the Race to the Top, now slated for two cycles, to live on for a third round in the proposed 2011 federal budget (they’ve slotted in $1.35 billion for that, pending congressional approval, of course) and possibly to become a permanent program.

That, says Smarick, would be a big mistake at this juncture.

“Congress needs to put the brakes on additional spending,” he said. “Not a single penny has been spent, and we have no results.”

Smarick, by the way, is one of the few souls we know of (other than the anonymous peer reviewers chosen by the Education Department) who have actually read, page by page, the Race to the Top applications submitted by the 16 finalist states.

UPDATE: For a very different take on Race to the Top and the changes it has spurred, check out this paper released by the Policy Innovators in Education Network, a nonprofit organization that works with education advocacy organizations in several states.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding A Court Ordered Billions for Education. Why Schools Might Not Get It Now
The North Carolina Supreme Court is considering arguments for overturning a statewide order for more school funding.
6 min read
A blue maze with a money bag at the end of the maze.
iStock/Getty
Education Funding Schools Want More Time to Spend COVID-19 Aid for Homeless Students
Senators want to give districts more time to spend COVID relief funds for students experiencing homelessness.
4 min read
New canvas school bags hanging on the backs of empty classroom student chairs in a large modern classroom
iStock/Getty Images
Education Funding ESSER Isn't the Only School Funding Relief That's Disappearing Soon
Federal relief aid, policies to prevent schools from losing enrollment-based funding, and support for vulnerable families are expiring soon.
10 min read
Vector illustration of a businessman's hand holding a slowly vanishing dollar sign.
iStock/Getty
Education Funding Schools Lost Ground on Funding in Recent Years. The Recovery Could Be Slow
School funding took a hit a few years ago. It might be some time before it recovers.
5 min read
Tight crop of a dollar bill puzzle missing one piece
iStock/Getty