Saturday, November 7, 2009

Michigan's Not Racing To The Top

A lot of Michiganders have already bemoaned the Granholm/Cherry administration's massive cuts to education, but I have one reason to be angry that's not been a part of the conversation yet. In fact, it's not been a part of the conversation in Michigan at all that I can tell - cuts to education or not.

I'm talking about the Race to the Top initiative, by Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education. It's $4 billion dollar fund that will award grants to states who compete and win against other states. Hence the name, "race to the top".

Michigan isn't doing a very good job "racing" at all, and we've got some competition that is actually serious about structural reform. Recently, in a speech in Wisconsin, Obama mentioned efforts that some of our rival states were taking to position themselves to win a grant:

I'm proud to say that already a number of states have taken us up on this challenge. Across the country, different groups are coming together to bring about change in our schools -- teachers unions and parents groups, businesses and community organizations. In places like New Haven, educators and city leaders have come together to find a smarter way to evaluate teachers and turn around low-performing schools. In states like California and Indiana and Wisconsin, you're seeing steps taken to remove these so-called firewall laws so we can have a clear look at how well our children are learning and what can be done to help them learn better. States like Delaware and Louisiana, Tennessee and Illinois are all making efforts to let innovative charter schools flourish.
I know we've been busy with our annual embarrassing budget crisis, but is it not possible for us to focus on structural reforms, so maybe the funding cuts won't hurt so bad? What is Michigan doing to compete against these states who are already taking steps to ensure they win in the knowledge economy?

We're cutting vital scholarships and funding, when we have legislators who gave themselves a pay raise a couple years ago, film credits that do more for Hollywood than Michigan, one time tax credits to politically-favored companies, and a shiny new building downtown for our police captains (while their boots on the ground are getting laid off).

I fail to see the logic here.

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