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Education Coalition Protests Race To Top Reform Effort

Says Competition For Grants Leads To Failure To Serve Economically Poorest Students

By GRACE E. MERRITT

August 30, 2010

HARTFORD A coalition of Connecticut education leaders is protesting the Obama administration's practice of making states or school systems compete for federal education grants, saying it's a subjective way to distribute money and fails to serve the state's poorest students.

The Connecticut Coalition for Public Education sent a letter to Obama and Connecticut's congressional delegation this week objecting to the U.S. Department of Education's policy of using competitive grants as a way to foster innovation and change.

The coalition, which represents associations of teachers, school administrators, boards of education and parent-teacher groups, said the policy lacks the objectivity and transparency of state allocations that are based on student need. The implications for additional reforms from Washington are "frightening," the letter said.

The letter was sent shortly after the state found out it had failed for the second time to win as much as $175 million in the federal Race to the Top school reform competition.

It also supports a similar letter sent earlier this month from state Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan, who said the Race to the Top competition makes "winners and losers an acceptable strategy of solving the problems of poor children."

Both McQuillan and the coalition are concerned about the education department's plan to replace the No Child Left Behind program with a new "Blueprint" proposal that would promote competition and could change the way money is distributed to poor school districts, said Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and one of the letter-signers.

"We certainly don't want it to look like sour grapes because we didn't win Race to the Top," Rader said.

"On the other hand, we don't believe it is in the interest of children, especially those in poverty, for money to be given out in competitive grants. We want to make sure that all children have the best possible opportunity for a quality public education and we don't believe competitive grants is the way to dole out this critical funding."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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