Group opposes Race to Top application

Group opposes Race to Top application

May 11th, 2010 by Ben Benton in Politics National

PDF: Teacher survey results

PDF: First round application reviewer comments

PDF: Georgia's first round application


* June 1: Phase 2 applications due

* September: Phase 2 awards announced

Source: U.S. Department of Education

The Georgia Association of Educators opposes the state's Phase 2 Race to the Top application because the group was not included in the process.

The group also is concerned about some of the state's reform goals, officials said.

But Gov. Sonny Perdue's staff said state officials got input from individual educators in the first-round application with more than 20,000 responses to a December 2009 survey. Those responses were included in Race to the Top competition paperwork, they said.

The 43,000-member GAE wants to be part of the Race to the Top process but opposes the second-round application because of "severe concerns regarding the problems within several major goal areas and complete failure of the governor and his staff to engage our professional education association to be part of the creation and buy-in process," GAE President Jeff Hubbard states in a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Mr. Hubbard is on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment.

Out of 16 finalists, Georgia was third -- behind Delaware and Tennessee -- in the first round of the Race to the Top competition. The application for part of the $3.4 billion available in the second round is due June 1.

Mr. Hubbard said in the letter that the second application not only lacks input from professional associations but has just 23 of 180 school systems included as participants. It also lacks support for teacher pay reforms and does not describe intervention models for turning around low-performing schools, he wrote.

Inclusion of professional associations "would have greatly enhanced Georgia's application," he says in the letter.

Governor's spokesman Bert Brantley said the 2009 "Teacher and Leader Survey" sought voices of people working in schools rather than a "lobbying group" that he contends is more worried about membership dues and "maintaining the status quo" than educational reform.

The survey was answered by 20,507 educators -- 15,300 of them teachers -- in 174 Georgia school systems, records show.

Mr. Brantley said that 20,000 responses out of the more than 100,000 teachers in Georgia was a "pretty large sample" and is more representative of educator opinions than stances taken by associations.

GAE's position on Race to the Top's Phase 2 is "disappointing but it's not surprising," he said.

The association's opposition and Mr. Hubbard's comments are "indicative of ... why we chose to go directly to teachers and get their direct input rather than asking an organization, where you get only one perspective," he said.

He said there is a "disconnect between what teachers believe and what these lobbying groups believe."

Mr. Hubbard's letter claims a similar situation exists between the governor's office and educator associations.

"GAE was limited to two 20-minute meetings with (Gov. Perdue's) education adviser," Mr. Hubbard states.

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