This morning, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan named California one of the 19 finalists in the second round of his controversial Race to the Top plan, which offers states incentive to reform their public education systems in order to compete for $3.4 billion in federal education funds. The Department of Education snubbed California by choosing not to select it as a finalist in the first round, but not everyone is happy about the most recent achievement. From teachers’ unions to civil rights groups, critics say Duncan’s agenda pushes untested methods, such as lifting a cap on charter schools and tying teacher evaluations to student performance, and does little to address long-standing inequities in public education. Education experts also point out there could be backlash from states that take significant political risks to reform, only to be eliminated in a final round; some states already chose to opt out of the second round of competition and only two states, Tennessee and Delaware, were awarded first-round grants. Leading up to the final interview round, to take place in D.C. the week of August 9th, Patt looks at California’s chances and what stakeholders are saying on all sides of the debate.
Bonnie Reiss, California Secretary of Education & Regent of the University of California