Culture, Science & Faith

Village Academic Curriculum: Racing to the Top of the Money Pile

Barack Obama's Race to the Top program has "fundamental flaws."

Sep. 13, 2013
Is our children learning?

In 2009, Barack Obama pushed a new educational initiative called Race to the Top as part of his stimulus program. Its goal was to improve educational outcomes for public school students by using federal money to entice states to meet certain standards. Three years later, a study by a group called Broader, Bolder Approach to Education – an offshoot of the union-backed Economic Policy Institute – conceded that the Race to the Top program has “fundamental flaws.” “Even in the best of circumstances,” the report notes, “Race to the Top could not achieve what it sets out to do.” And while that sounds like damning criticism from an Obama ally, it’s only because their report argues that the federal government doesn’t go far enough.

The study defines four “mismatches” between the goals of Race to the Top and hard reality, with the key one being the gap between what states promised for federal money and what can be delivered for the meager share of state educational dollars the Race to the Top grants provided. In all but one of the cases cited, the grant was less than 2% of the state’s total educational budget. Very little can be accomplished with that proverbial drop in the bucket.

Given the study’s source, it’s no surprise that the solutions advocated reach far beyond the classroom, as they cite reams of statistics supposedly showing the relationship between various aspects of socioeconomic status and student achievement. “[U]nless an accompanying set of student, family, and school supports is rolled out with the Common Core,” they sniffle, “a policy agenda that again addresses only a minority of the drivers of race- and income-based achievement gaps will further widen those gaps.”

But is there any reason to believe states won’t continue saying they’ll do anything in order to keep the spigot of federal dollars flowing? It seems to us that those 30 pieces of silver aren’t really worth the strings that are always attached to a check from Uncle Sam.

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