Below is the rest of the article from Friday's paper about Race to the Top. Here is a link of all the districts in Southeastern Minnesota who are participating. I'll link to the print edition when it appears in Friday's paper. I have some pretty lengthy comments from area superintendents, I'll try to post them in full here at a later date if people are interested.More than 250 districts statewide have joined the state’s competitive bid to receive federal funding from the Race to the Top program, including 20 of the 35 school districts in southeastern Minnesota.
Critics say they can’t support Race to the Top because of requirements for teacher performance pay and possible teacher evaluation tied to test scores. Others, who are supporting it, say they still have unanswered questions about how the grant will materialize.
State officials need to deliver the application by Tuesday in order to be eligible for Race to the Top, which will give a total of $4.35 billion in federal funds to roughly 10 to 15 states for innovation and improvement of K-12 education.
Experts have said Minnesota could receive between $175 million and $250 million if selected by the federal government. About 80 percent to 90 percent of the funds would go to the districts that have signed up, while the remaining funds would go to the state Department of Education.
Minnesota Education Commissioner Alice Seagren said Minnesota’s history of reform, standards and assessment and the merit-pay program Q Comp should put the state in a good position.
“I think we should impress the feds,” Seagren said.
To participate within Minnesota’s bid, school districts needed to complete a memorandum of agreement with the superintendent’s signature. The signatures of school boards and local teachers unions were suggested but not required.
Based on sheer numbers of districts signing up, the grant could be viewed so far as a success. Many in southeastern Minnesota are moving ahead cautiously and approval from teachers unions has proved difficult to secure. Education Minnesota, the state teacher’s union, does not support the grant in its present state.
Critics say the program provides little incentive for what they called arduous work, while others, like Blooming Prairie Superintendent Barry Olson, have said Race to the Top is too political. Even with his concerns, Olson still submitted his approval, since the superintendent’s signature allows districts to opt out at a later date. Many have said they might do so.
“We are here really to work for the students, to work for their education. To play all of these policies games they are creating doesn’t really help the students in the classroom,” Olson said. “It takes more time away from that.”
Byron Public Schools will not pursue the grant after their teachers union ruled against signing up for the program. The state three times denied Byron’s proposals for Q Comp, the state’s merit pay program for teachers.
Even though many still have questions about Race to the Top, everyone isn’t negative.
Lake City schools Superintendent Craig Junker said there are many questions surrounding the program, but there isn’t much to lose at this point by endorsing it. “My signature keeps a foot in the door for Lake City,” Junker said.
Rushford-Peterson Superintendent Chuck Ehler said schools should first try to get the grant and then resolve the concerns and issues about requirements. “It’s a competitive world and the State of Minnesota and all the school districts need to do all they can to secure additional federal funds for our schools,” Ehler said.