More Race to the Top drop-outs

A week ago, upon hearing that the Ohio Department of Education rejected the majority of districts' and charter schools' Race to the Top proposals, we pondered whether this would instigate a dropping-out effect among LEAs who signed on originally but maybe were tired of the work it required.

Yesterday the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that at least 28 LEAs have withdrawn (making the drop-out rate thus far about five percent, not considering the 47 percent of districts and 34 percent of charters that didn't sign up in the first place). The title of the article ? Some Ohio schools quit Race to the Top as political sparring threatens the program ? feels a bit confusing/possibly misleading, though. Does the ?political sparring? have anything to do with schools dropping out? Does the dropping out have anything to do with political sparring? The answers are no, and no.

What's the primary reason for LEA withdrawal from RttT? Districts can't afford to spend more carrying out the proposal's requirements than they'd receive in RttT to do the work.

Districts spokespersons were quoted saying:

Unfortunately, the enormity of the application process, and the limited time in which to complete the application, made it difficult for us to give quality attention to two lengthy RttT applications simultaneously.

And

It's not that we oppose the program's concept, but when we have a five-year forecast that shows a deficit in 2014, I can't afford to do it.

The other point ? the ?political sparring? and the ?risk? to Ohio's funding ?deserves some quick clarification. It began with a statement made by outgoing-Governor Strickland that Governor-elect Kasich's plan to scrap Ohio's evidence-based funding model (EBM) would threaten the state's Race to the Top dollars, despite the fact that Kasich ? based on what he's said so far ? agrees with many of Ohio's RttT application promises.

In many ways, Ohio Republicans are actually more aligned with Democrats Obama and Duncan when it comes to education policy ideas like charter schools, overhauling teacher evaluations, teacher pay, alternative programs (Teach For America), etc. Ohio didn't win because of the EBM. (Not so sure? Read the reviewer scores and comments.) Certainly most, if not all, of the state's application promises can move forward with a different school funding formula in place.

If anything, Ohio won't be able to fulfill promises because of its ballooning budget deficit ? a problem that would have inhibited either governor. This brings us back to the original point, what Fordham friend Colleen Grady calls ?the real threat to Race to the Top in Ohio? ? the ability for the federal program to move forward in a meaningful way if LEAs continue dropping out and if schools can't afford to (or won't) continue RttT reforms after dollars dry up. You may recall our?earlier analyses of?RttT ?showing that large percentages of students in the neediest schools wouldn't see a dime of RttT funding. Now that more districts and charters are dropping out, that number is climbing ? as is our skepticism of the program's ability to make significant and lasting change in the state.

- Jamie Davies O'Leary

More By Author