Race to the Tax Dollars

One of the reasons public education is so messed up in California is that matters aren’t controlled here by the locals, or even by Sacramento, but mainly by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. That control has increased greatly over the past 50 years, especially with Republican President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act.

Every President has to have his own “education bill” to show he’s “doing something for our children.” So, Democratic President Barack Obama now has Race to the Top.

Like all these federal schemes, it’s supposed to advance excellence in education. What it really does is make states compete in being subservient to Washington’s dictates. The Chronicle reports:

California will throw its hat into the ring for the chance to win $700 million in the second round of federal Race to the Top funds despite the state’s arguably long odds and dismal showing in the last round, state officials said Friday.

The state would need to vault from 27th place – out of 40 applicants – in round one to a spot among serious contenders – something that will require a complete revamp of the application, said state Secretary of Education Bonnie Reiss.

More, as PRI’s Lance Izumi noted in March, Race to the Top actually would require California to reduce its school standards:

President Barack Obama is using a double hammer against the states to adopt the common, i.e. national, standards being developed by the National Governors Association and the nation’s chief state school officers. First, under RTTT, states had to agree to adopt the national standards if they wanted to compete for these funds. While only a handful of states were chosen as RTTT finalists, states that applied to compete, including California and most others, had to commit to the national standards….

A new joint study by the Boston-based Pioneer Institute and San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute entitled “Why Race to the Middle?” compares the draft national standards that have been made public with the rigorous state standards in Massachusetts and California. In mathematics, the study notes that the draft college- and career-readiness math standards fail to cover large areas of geometry and algebra 2 that are covered under California’s math standards. Also, the draft K-12 math standards propose to teach significantly fewer math topics in many grades than in California and Massachusetts.

Weakening standards in strong-standard states would also water down the tests in those states. State tests in places like California and Massachusetts are aligned to their rigorous standards. If such states must accept new weaker national standards, the tests aligned to those standards would also be weakened. Student test scores may go up, but that won’t necessarily mean that learning has improved.

Hey, why don’t they just give us back our tax money and let Californians decide how best to school our own kids?

— John Seiler

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