Race to the Top is a $4.35 billion fund for which states apply to receive a portion of, based on various success factors and standards. In theory, Race to the Top should be doing something good, as Mr. Shaffer stated; however, as Mrs. Benigno pointed out, it is nothing more than an expensive contest that chooses winners and losers. We know that competition through school choice helps all children because it forces all schools to get better, in order to attract students. But Race to the Top is the wrong kind of competition because it creates losers, and the losers are the kids.
Taxpayers are also the losers thanks to the massive amounts of money states have spent on the application process. Colorado, for example, spent $3.77 million in the first round, and lost. It took two more attempts, but in the third round the state was awarded $1.47 million over four years. That certainly does not make up for the money it spent for that “award” – money that could have been spent on creating real education reforms in the state. The only positive is that Race to the Top has encouraged states to innovate and reform their education system – albeit at a great cost to taxpayers.
The CCSS initiative, on the other hand, has little to be positive about. The goal of CCSS is, as its name implies, to implement common core standards across all states. Adopting common core curriculum is voluntary, but it is also a condition of receiving money from Race to the Top fund. And, as Mr. Shaffer said, anytime the federal government says a program is voluntary, eventually it will not be. In accepting these standards, states will be indefinitely bound to them which could prevent future reforms. States were also asked to sign on to these standards before they had even been written – kind of like passing a bill, so that we can see what’s in it. Once the standards were written though, it became clear that they set a standard of mediocrity. Indeed, the common core standards are lower than several states that set high standards for their students, including Massachusetts and Texas – which is why Mr. Scott and Texas said “no” to CCSS.
CCSS not only creates a standard of mediocrity for public school system which is already mediocre, the federal government is actually overstepping its bounds. There are three federal laws that prohibit the federal government from controlling elementary and secondary education programs and curriculum; the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA), the Department of Education Organization Act (DEOA), and NCLB. In violating these laws, CCSS is also violating the rights of parents to choose the direction of their child’s education and upbringing.
All panel members agreed that we should be empowering parents to make education decisions for their children, not allowing the federal government to get in the way. CCSS is another attempt at the one size fits all approach, which has been proven not to work in any situation but especially in education reform. Not only should parents be in charge of their child’s education, but state and local governments should be overseeing the education systems in their areas because they are providing the funds – not the federal government. When reforms have been successful, it has come from organic, grassroots efforts at the parent level, because they know what their child and their community needs.
The federal government and its bloated bureaucracy have a proven track record of, well, making a mess of things when it gets involved. Public education is the most important domestic issue; it affects the future of our country. So why would we ever let it take over our public education system?! Instead, we need to trust parents to make the right decisions for their children and allow localized, grassroots movements to drive education reform, not a government monopoly.