Oct 1, 2012
Nearly 900 school districts across the U.S. have applied for the right to compete for federal education grants, known as “Race to the Top” (RTTT). These grants are nothing but an excuse to attack publicly funded education. And they’re a poor excuse at that.
Of the 900 districts in the contest, ONLY 15 to 25 will get any money. And no district will get more than 30 or 40 million dollars over four years – which is less than 1% of the budget of, say, Los Angeles Unified, which is one of the districts applying.
Even IF a district gets the grant, the money is not enough to make a difference in its budget.
But “Race to the Top” does give state and local officials an excuse to do what they have already been doing in these days of budget cuts – “cut spending” by firing better-paid teachers, that is, experienced teachers who know how to teach.
The result can only be a worsening of education for the children of workers, who depend on public schools.
President Obama and his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, say that money will go only to officials who “reform” their schools. Public school systems must accept more charter schools, tie teachers’ evaluations to student scores on standardized tests, and weaken teacher tenure.
Each of these measures is an open attack on teachers, and on the children they educate.
Charter schools are funded with taxpayer money, but managed by private companies, many of them set up to make profit. Typically their teachers work still longer hours than the average 50-hour-week most teachers already have – for less money. The quality of education in most of these schools goes down, as shown by several recent studies.
Student test results are not any measure of how good a teacher is. But focusing on the very narrow standardized tests provides an excuse to get rid of everything not reflected in the tests – art, music, physical education, even much of science, history and languages – everything students need for a complete, well-rounded education.
Teacher tenure doesn’t prevent bad teachers from getting fired. It’s simply a basic protection of due process. But getting rid of teacher tenure makes it easier to get rid of the more experienced, and better-paid teachers – the teachers who know their subjects and how to teach them very well.
These are not “reforms” – they are open attacks on education for children of the working class.
For both parties, the point is to cut spending on education – to provide another source of taxpayer money for the banks, the Wall Street investment firms behind charter schools, and big business.