June 2010 Archives

Moderate Democrats Push Back on Cuts to Race to the Top, TIF

Democrats who have supported education reform efforts are pushing back against a plan to divert funding already appropriated for the Race to the Top, the Teacher Incentive Fund, and charter schools to the education jobs bill. This afternoon, Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., a longtime charter school supporter, sent an e-mail out urging his colleagues to sign onto a letter to Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the sponsor of the legislation and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, urging him to reconsider the cuts. Here's a snippet from Polis' letter: "Race to the Top has already led to major progress that will ...


House Dems Trim Race to Top, TIF to Make Room for Edujobs

Draft legislation appears to target a pair of high-profile programs in finding money to save education jobs.


Bill Gates: We're Not Too Cozy With Ed. Dept.

Check out District Dossier, where my colleague Dakarai Aarons details his one-on-one interview with Microsoft and Gates Foundation founder Bill Gates. At the end, Dakarai gets to the issue that's been raised many times on this blog: whether Gates is too cozy with EdSec Arne Duncan and crew at the Education Department. Gates dismisses such talk, and says: "Arne's got a lot of different strategies. Some overlap [with the foundation's]. Some are different. I wish the world had one [education] agenda it knew would work and be embraced by teachers." Check out Dakarai's blog for more....


Applications Pour in for Promise Neighborhood Program

Those American Express commercials on the Harlem Children's Zone must really be inspiring people. A whopping 339 communities applied for relatively small one-year planning grants from the U.S. Department of Education, meant to help communities create their own Promise Neighborhoods. The new federal program, financed at just $10 million this year, is meant to help communities replicate the superstar, New York-based program's success in pairing high-quality academics with a range of support services, such as counseling and prekindergarten, in order to get kids ready for college or a career. These 339 applicants aren't even asking for a grant to ...


Latest Edujobs Draft Has $10 Billion To Prevent Layoffs

House Democratic leaders are circulating a draft of a scaled-down version of the edujobs bill that would include $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs. For those keeping score at home, the $10 billion would be a significant decrease from the $23 billion that Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, initially sought to stave off staff reductions. Conservative Democrats balked at the $23 billion pricetag and the fact that the bill would add to the deficit. This time around, there's a lot less money, and the spending would be offset by about $12 billion in reductions to ...


Sen. Byrd, Champion of Civic Education, Passes Away

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.V. , who passed away this morning at the age of 92, was famous in the Senate for carrying around a copy of the constitution. And he wanted to make sure that students across America had a thorough understanding of that document. That's why, in 2004, he put language into a federal spending bill directing schools to set aside a specific day, September 17, to teach students about the constitution, as a condition of receiving federal funds. Not every school has complied with the requirement (it doesn't appear to have been strongly enforced) but many have ...


Will Districts Spend Stimulus Bucks Before Deadline?

That's a very real question, especially after reading this post from the Association of School Business Officials. During a recent U.S Department of Education webinar geared toward districts, 48 percent of those who participated said they were somewhat concerned about spending their money before the clock strikes midnight on Sept. 30, 2011. That's the deadline for spending $10 billion in Title I and $12 billion in special education dollars. Of that money, districts have $6 billion in Title I funds (not counting school improvement grants) waiting to be spent, according to the latest Education Department data from June 18. ...


Progressive Democrats Release ESEA Wish List

A group of 83 House Democrats has sketched out what its members would like to see in the renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the current version of which is the No Child Left Behind Act. The group, called the Progressive Caucus, includes some of the most liberal members of Congress. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, who is pretty much The Man in Charge when it comes to the House version of ESEA reauthorization, is a member, but it's tough to say just how many of the group's ideas he ...


Transparency Watch: Fountain of 'i3' Data Now Online

The Education Department has made good on promises to disclose more data on the 1,600-plus applicants for the $650 million Investing in Innovation, or i3, fund. Officials have created a user-friendly Web portral that allows you to splice the information apart in dozens of ways. You can examine the data by geography, and figure out where the biggest—or smallest—concentrations of potential winners are located. You can see who applied for each tier of grants, how much money they want, and who their budget partners are. You can examine the applications by type of applicant, which allows you...


Edujobs Bill Still Up in the Air

Despite support from big-name congressional Democrats, the administration, and the very energetic lobbying efforts of a number of education groups, the edujobs bill still has not made it to legislative prime-time. Conservative and moderate Democrats, as well as Republicans, are questioning the impact of the legislation's $23 billion price tag on the federal deficit. And the measure may, for now, be in (indirect) competition with another bill also aimed at steadying faltering state finances, a $24 billion measure offering Medicaid aid to states. That money is nearly as important to education as the edujobs bill, some advocates tell me, because ...


Conaty Named Acting Race to Top Director

Longtime U.S. Department of Education official Joseph Conaty will take over as interim director of the Race to the Top now that Joanne Weiss is moving up the chain and becoming chief of staff to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Conaty, who has served in many roles since coming to the department in 1987, is currently the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education's director of academic Improvement and teacher quality programs. He'll take over the post July 4 and will temporarily be in charge of both the high-profile $4 billion state competition, and the $350 million assessment competition. If you'll ...


Contractors To Help ED Implement Stimulus Reforms

When I talked to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan earlier this week about the transition in his chief of staff post, he talked about the broader shift in the department: from policy formation to policy implementation. Designing and executing the competitions around Race to the Top and the Investing in Innovation Fund are only a small part of the battle for the department as it pursues its reform agenda. Next comes implementation. States and i3 winners must make these reforms happen, and the department must hold them accountable. To that end, the department needs some outside help. For ...


Reading the Tea Leaves as 'Big 8' Meet on ESEA

Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act remains a goal for education leaders in Congress, but there's still no firm time frame.


Q-and-A with Margot Rogers, Outgoing EdSec Chief of Staff

Check out my interview with Margot Rogers, who is leaving her post as Arne Duncan's chief of staff after 18 months. She's giving up her Blackberry and hitting the beach for the summer before figuring out what's next. And given her extensive education policy background, Rogers should have no problem landing a plum gig. Her one big regret? Not sticking around to see ESEA get reauthorized. (But can anyone blame her for not waiting? Reauthorization might still be a long way off...)...


Obama Officially, and Personally, Asks for Edujobs Money

I'm sure you've heard by now that the White House, which some folks said wasn't going after the edujobs money with sufficient gusto, sent a letter, on a weekend no less, to congressional leaders asking them to please pass legislation to stave off what some warn could be 300,000 teacher layoffs. A couple of things to note here: *The version of the edujobs bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in December, was set to provide $23 billion, but the letter doesn't specify an amount. Still, published reports say this is an ask for $50 billion in ...


Rachael Ray Lends Star Power to School Food Bill

First it was Richard Simmons, getting Congress to exercise. Now Rachael Ray is lending her star power to the House Education and Labor Committee's effort to revamp school nutrition programs. Apparently, she thinks a bill introduced today by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the committee, is yummo and delish. Ray, who participated up in a press conference on Capitol Hill today to roll out the legislation, asked the audience to imagine what it is like for a child to go hungry. "The difference an apple or a good school lunch makes to these kids ... it's more than just ...


Spellings Steps in as Head of Chamber's Ed. Programs

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which was a major force behind the stepped up federal accountability in the No Child Left Behind law, has tapped former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings to serve as the new head of its education programs. In case you've been living under a rock, Spellings was a key architect of the NCLB law when she served as President George W. Bush's domestic-policy adviser. As secretary of education, she introduced substantial new flexibility into the law and also racked up some major international frequent-flyer miles. Spellings, who will be replacing Arthur Rothkopf, has ...


White House's Go-To Senator Introduces Turnaround Bill

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., a former Denver schools chief, who is said to be the administration's go-to guy on education issues, just dropped this bill aimed at helping states and districts build capacity to turn around low-performing schools. Unlike a proposal by Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., which would completely reject the administration's four turnaround models outlined in the School Improvement Grants, the Bennet proposal is more about training school leaders to do turnaround work and spurring more research on how to intervene in struggling schools. The bill would create a School Leadership Academy, which would be charged with developing a ...


Race to Top Guru Weiss Moving On Up

She will leave the helm of the high-profile competition to take over as Education Secretary Arne Duncan's chief of staff.


On Capitol Hill, Addressing the State of the Child

The Senate education committee's panel on children and families will be examining a variety of issues affecting children's lives.


On Eve of Obama's Speech, Duncan Makes Policy Pitch

So tonight, some very lucky students in Kalamazoo, Michigan are going to have their commencement address delivered by none other than President Barack Obama. And although I doubt Obama will talk much about union side deals and other education policy inside baseball, it's not surprising that the administration is using the hoopla surrounding the speech as an opportunity to tout its progress on major education redesign achievements - and to lay some groundwork for the administration's priorities as Congress begins to consider the fiscal year 2011 education spending bill. Chief on that list? The competition for a slice of the $4...


Race to Top Side Deals: Ed. Dept. Reacts

Florida's Race to the Top application and the so-called side deals that districts and unions are entering into on their own—outside of the official application—are raising some eyebrows among education policy wonks. It's really unclear just how problematic these side deals might be to the spirit of the Race to the Top competition in Florida, but they sure do raise a lot of questions. Eduwonk, Sherman Dorn, State EdWatch, The Washington Post's Answer Sheet, and this blog have all explored the ramifications of these side deals. Now, the U.S. Department of Education is weighing in late Friday...


Race to Top Side Deals: An Alarming Trend?

My colleague Lesli Maxwell highlighted over at State EdWatch a disturbing trend in Florida, where some districts and their local teachers' unions are signing side deals that seem to fly in the face of the spirit of the Race to the Top competition. Intrepid St. Pete Times reporter Ron Matus first wrote about the issue here, and has since uncovered more side deals. UPDATE: Blogger Sherman Dorn writes this is much ado about nothing—that the MOUs districts signed and these side deals are really quite similar. Florida improved its round two application by getting 54 local unions on board...


States' Fiscal Condition Still Dismal, New Report Finds

K-12 education is likely to face the chopping block in fiscal year 2011 amid slack revenues, says a survey by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers.


35 States Plus D.C. Apply for Race to Top, Round 2

Fewer states applied this time around for the $3.4 billion left in the Obama administration's signature education-reform competition. First-time applicants for the grants, which will be doled out late this summer, include Maryland, Nevada, and Washington.


It's Race to Top Deadline Day, So Let's Chat With Steven Brill

As we wait for the official tally of entrants into round two of Race to the Top, join me at edweek.org for an online chat today at 3 p.m. Eastern featuring Steven Brill, who recently penned two pieces on Race to the Top and will take your questions. His main piece, in the New York Times Magazine, examined the overall effect Race to the Top is having on the country's education reform dynamic, particularly on the relationship policymakers have with teachers' unions. He wrote a companion piece for Edweek that delved into the wonkiness of the 500-point grading ...


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