Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pastorek, school boards at loggerheads over Race to the Top

While other states hurry to play catch-up with Louisiana's pace to win federal Race to the Top funds, educators here are saying, "Not so fast!" The dispute now pits State Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek against the Louisiana School Boards Association.

In an interview with Advocate reporter Will Sentell, a Louisiana School Boards Association spokesperson says that most local school leaders around the state don't want a piece of the $4 billion federal pie.

Various organizations, including the LFT, have expressed concern about mandates that will come with the new federal funds. Those include a major expansion of charter schools and tying teacher evaluations to student progress as measured by test scores.

Speaking on behalf of LSBA, consultant Don Whittinghill says that Race to the Top will mandate new programs that will require significant funding when the federal money runs out after four years.

According to the article, LSBA polled its 658 members about accepting Race to the Top funds. Of the approximately 100 who replied, 77% said they oppose taking Race to the Top funds.

In a press release, Pastorek urges LSBA to "not dismiss this unprecedented opportunity," which would grant about $2 million to some 130 schools across the state.

Pastorek's press release states, "We are convinced that Louisiana’s public education system can clearly benefit from Race to the Top, enabling us to effectively support schools, and at the same time, build the institutional structure to continue statewide school improvement beyond the life of the grant."

LSBA Executive Director Nolton Senegal issued a press release affirming his opposition to “mortgaging the future of local public schools for an experimental program that is not based upon any significant body of research.”

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