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More Unions Bow Out of Race to Top

You can tick off a few more state-union squabbles about the second round of the Race to the Top.

Indiana officials are no longer moving forward, citing the state union's opposition to the program as a factor. The Colorado Education Association, a supporter of the state's previous Race to the Top bid, now formally opposes a tenure-reform bill that lawmakers want to pass to improve their chances at winning. Support from Minnesota's state union seems unlikely, given disagreements over the teacher sections of the state's plan.

A lack of "collaboration" is the big term of art for why these unions are bowing out, and again I really wish they'd be more specific about what that term's supposed to mean. Obviously there are substantive policy differences between unions and state leaders. So does collaboration mean splitting the baby? Does it mean, shut up and do what we want? Does it mean, give a little on pay, get a little on evaluation?

You'll have to read Michele McNeil's take on whether this is a result of the common (incorrect?) narrative about the importance of "stakeholder buy-in" or just morning-after regret. But it bears watching.

Right on the heels of "musical chairs-gate" in Minnesota, there are some odd public-relations moves going on. In Colorado today, there's a union-sponsored "rally" in Denver for teachers unhappy about the tenure bill. But a union press release says emphatically that it isn't a protest! You will pardon those of us who are too dense to get this apparently significant distinction.

Surely, though, this week's Head-Scratching PR Strategy award has to go to NEA national. Earlier this week, President Dennis Van Roekel released a statement supporting the $23 billion education jobs bill now under discussion, while knocking the Race to the Top:

"Now is not the time for competition," he said. "Competition is a luxury our states should have during a budget surplus, not when they are facing record deficits and slashing jobs. Our children's future should not depend on whether their state or district receives a competitive grant."

Given that Race to the Top is supplemental funding, and that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is trying to rally support for the jobs bill aimed right at NEA's membership, this cannot have pleased the administration.

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