The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is concerned that the federal government’s proposed criteria for a new, $400 million Race to the Top (RTTT) district competition could stifle innovation and local control.
“Several of the draft requirements threaten to diminish the program as an [local education agency] grant in name only, including first time requirements that represent alarming precedents for the future,” NSBA wrote in a June 8 letter to the U.S. Department of Education.
In particular, the letter asks the Education Department to eliminate a requirement for school board evaluations, in part because the proposed accountability system would not be a valid measure for school board governance. Further, given that about 95 percent of the nation’s more than 13,000 school boards are elected, community residents already have a accountability mechanism.
NSBA also asks the Education Department to eliminate the “state and mayor, city, or town administrator (MCT) comment period on LEA grant applications,” as these entities may not have a strong knowledge base of education policy and could stifle school district’s innovative proposals. The letter also asks the agency to revise or eliminate other requirements deemed to be bureaucratic or problematic.
The Education Department released draft criteria in May for grants that will go directly to eligible school districts. The concept of the program is to provide RTTT funds that will be aligned with the agency’s reform principles directly to local school districts.
According to NSBA’s legislative advocacy department, this is a “modest program that might be attractive to some school districts, given that the number of grant awards is between 15 and 20 and the maximum grant amount is $15 – 25 million each based on the number of participating students. The program is open to all school districts, not just those located in states that have been awarded RTTT grants.”
Applications will be available in July and grants awarded in December.