April 5, 2010

Obamunism in Action: Gaming School Funding

Hatched by Dafydd

As part of its ongoing project to taint and corrupt every element of federal policy, the administration of President Barack H. Obama has started gaming school funding... literally: It initiated a "contest," called Race to the Top, that states could enter to pick up a jackpot in federal education grants. But rather than base the awards on, for example, the ability of different states actually to educate students, they had another set of winning criteria in mind:

Officials from several states criticized the scoring of the contest, which favored states able to gain support from 100 percent of school districts and local teachers’ unions for Obama administration objectives like expanding charter schools, reworking teacher evaluation systems and turning around low-performing schools.

Marshalling such support is one thing for a tiny state like Delaware, with 38 districts, they said, and quite another for, say, California, with some 1,500.

Delaware was one of only two winners, the other being Tennessee.

“It was like the Olympic Games, and we were an American skater with a Soviet judge from the 1980s,” Mr. Ritter said [Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado].

If the Obamacle intends to be as fair and impartial between local schools and the teachers' unions as he was between General Government Motors and the UAW, or between the needs of state and local governments (and America in general) on the one hand versus the SEIU on the other, then I think we have a pretty clear idea what sort of "educational reform" Voyage to the Bottom of the Ethical Sea will flog.

Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, may have yet another game in mind anent their funding X-prize:

Administration officials say they consider last week’s outcome a splendid success. By awarding only $100 million to Delaware and $500 million to Tennessee, Mr. Duncan retained $3.4 billion to dole out to up to 15 winning states in September, weeks before the midterm elections -- a political bonus that officials insist is mere serendipity.

Too, for the next round of funding, Secretary Duncan has added a new twist: all the federal flavor, but only two-thirds the funding calories -- and even that spread over four years. The new grants will be capped and amortized, giving states much less money, dribbled out very slowly... but with the same federal takeover of previously locally controlled school districts:

“That’s a lot of money, and we need it,” said [South Carolina] superintendent of education, Jim Rex. “But spread it over four years, with all the federal expectations that come with it, and you have to ask whether you have the time and capacity to gear up again for the arduous work of filing a new proposal. We’re still weighing that.”

To egregiously paraphrase Mark Twain, there is something satisfying about federal grants: One gets such wholesale return of control for such a trifling investment of funding.

I suppose that after the federal takeover of GM and Chrysler, insurance giant IAG, hundreds of banks and savings & loans, health care, and the entire student-loan system, it was inevitable that the lidless eye of Obamunism would turn its hungry gaze upon the American public-school system. Imagine, thousands of local school districts that Barack Obama doesn't personally control, whose students he cannot extort for his reelection and recruit into the revolutionary brigades for national socialism! Something simply must be done about that.

But I don't think this seizure will be as successful as the recent vote on ObamaCare; for one thing, even Democrats -- albeit lame-duck Democratic governors, like Bill Ritter of Colorado -- are fighting to preserve the rights and authorities of states over their own local school districts:

“People judging our application may not have appreciated that in the West there is a great deal of local control,” he said. “Many tiny school districts don’t like federal mandates. So even as I believe that school reform is important for our country, it’s also important that people in Washington understand that one size doesn’t fit all.”

By the way, Ritter decided not to run for reelection; the latest Rasmussen poll (a month ago) shows Republican former congressman Scott Innis leading Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, by six points. Similarly, Rasmussen shows the Republican winning the U.S. Senate seat for every matchup they polled. The times they are a-changin'.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 5, 2010, at the time of 1:22 PM

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The following hissed in response by: GW

It was not long ago that we had a public school system that was the envy of the world. It has been declining for decades now, hand in hand with the growth of teachers' unions, the ludicrous practice of tenure for k-12 teachers, a de-emphasis of history and an emphasis on social justice in curriculum. I wonder if the only way to turn this around is not massive federal involvement in setting required policies or withholding of funding. Tenure must go, teacher's unions, like all public sector unions really, should be dissolved, history should be returned to the classroom. Then within that context, states and localities can operate.

The above hissed in response by: GW [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 6, 2010 1:35 PM

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