President Obama announced plans yesterday to expand the Race to the Top education program, which invites states to apply for slices of a $4 billion pie of additional school funding. Last year Obama launched the program with two major messages: (1) We need to locate effective teachers by studying student data, and (2) we need better standards to keep some states (ahem, Mississippi) from setting their education bar so low that they gut the word “standard” of all meaning.
In future iterations, Race to the Top will allow not only states, but also individual districts, to apply for additional federal funding. This change makes sense for two reasons. The first is wholly practical. Most school funding comes from local property taxes, and accordingly education policies, and their success, can vary dramatically on a district-by-district basis within a state. The second reason this makes sense for the administration is more political. Appealing to individual districts provides a way to circumvent governors like Texas’s Rick Perry who don’t want to accept additional education funds.