Monday, November 9, 2009

Stakeholders wrangle over Race to the Top funds

Wrangling over Louisiana's participation in a planned $4.5 billion federal education program called Race to the Top continues as local school boards and State Supertinendent of Education Paul Pastorek vie to see who will decide how the state's share will be spent.

The stakes are high, as Gannett reporter Mike Hasten writes here. About 130 schools across the state could get up to $500,000 per year for four years under a plan favored by Pastorek.

Not so fast, say the school boards, represented by Louisiana School Boards Association Executive Director Nolton Senegal. The LSBA is concerned about ongoing costs of new programs once the federal funds run out.

Sources say the LSBA is on the verge of recommending against local school boards applying for any of the funds. If that happens, Pastorek says, he is willing to divert all of the money to the state-run Recovery School District.

Unions like LFT also have a part to play in the application process; the federal guidelines suggest that all stakeholders should agree on how the money would be spent. LFT President Steve Monaghan says the union is not opposed to accepting the money, but wants to be sure that it is not used to undermine traditional public education:

Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, said the
final federal guidelines will dictate how his organization will react, "but no
one wants to stand between kids and cash. We want to make sure the cash goes to

"Right now, we would oppose it if the only turn-around is
reconstitution" of a school, replacing the administration and teachers, Monaghan
said, or if a school in the program has to be a charter school.

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