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More schools should be racing to the top

January 17, 2010
Morning Journal News

What a shame it is that only four of the county's 12 school districts were able to take a chance on obtaining a share of $400 million in additional federal stimulus dollars being sought by the Ohio Department of Education.

The money is part of $4 billion set aside by the stimulus bill under the U.S. Department of Education's Race to the Top, a program to award money to states specifically for education reform.

According to the education department, states that apply for the money must work on reforms in the following areas:

- Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace in today's global economy.

- Build systems to measure student academic growth and success.

- Recruit, develop, reward and retain effective teachers and principals.

- Improve low-performing schools.

Why aren't more of our school districts taking advantage of the chance to increase their funding? Especially when so many of our districts are failing both financially and academically? Perhaps because the teachers' unions at participating schools had to agree to sign off on the memorandum of understanding. According to the Columbus Dispatch, states seeking funding must adopt policies tying teacher pay to student academic performance, and some unions have opposed.

That was the case at Beaver Local, where Superintendent Sandra DiBacco said she forwarded her district's application on to the state, even though the teachers' union there declined to sign. But, as DiBacco noted, without the union's endorsement the district isn't eligible to receive any of the funding.

At United Local, which opted not to participate, Superintendent Ruth Rinto said officials there felt the program language seemed "vague and unclear," and because the payoff could be as little as $10,000 a year, they deemed it wasn't worth it.

The districts which declined to participate will get a second chance. A second phase of the funding will have an application deadline of June 1.

We hope that the districts which missed the first round will reconsider and apply for the second round. Improving schools and tying teachers' pay to academic performance seems like a good idea even without the offer of extra funding. If everyone truly has the best interest of students at heart, applying for this program should be a no-brainer.



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