California Education Sinks to the Bottom of Race to the Top

"Three strikes and you're out."

That description of one of baseball's most basic rules apparently applies to California as well when it comes to the more than $4 billion made available for public education reform by the Obama administration though its "Race to the Top" program.

Three times California has applied for funds, and three times the state has been turned down.

The first two times, California didn't match up with the competition in terms of proposing strong enough structural changes that would promote student success.

The heart of the problem seemed to be the state's unwillingness to hold teachers accountable for student performance. Teachers and administrators have found it difficult to agree on the terms for accountability and the best ways to assure it.

One wonders how much of the disagreement is about job protection rather than concern for student achievement.

Perhaps the last time--just a couple of weeks ago--represented yet the most obvious example of the state's paralysis. On this occasion, only a handful of states including California would be considered for a pot of $200 million.

All state leaders had to do was write a proposal to "Race to the Top" officials stating that California would adhere to four basic reform objectives outlined in "Race to the Top." No plan was even required beyond a flimsy promise.

Instead, Governor Jerry Brown sent a letter saying that California would meet two of the stated reform objectives. Right off the bat, the state was disqualified, and that was that.

We're talking about some big bucks here. New York and Florida have each been awarded $700 million; Tennesee and Georgia have received $400 million.

Think of what that kind of money could to in budget-impoverished California. In case anyone doesn't know, we now rank 48th of the 50 states in per capita public education expenditures.

In other words, we can use the dough. But it's not going to come from the feds.

It's a sad testament that teacher organizations and administrators couldn't reach agreement on creating and enforcing meaningful education reform standards. It's even more unfortunate that our students will pay the price for such intransigence.

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