If you liked “No Child Left Behind”, you’re really going to like this one. Do you remember a few years ago when some thought “No Child Left Behind” was a great idea? I can’t seem to find any of those people now.
The official title of this newest proposal is called “Race to the Top”, but we might better call it, “Race to the Handcuffs” because it is all about turning over our public schools to federal control. Perhaps a more accurate name would be “Race to Bureaucratic Control.” This is a proposal with a lot of strings attached and a possibility to pick up additional taxpayer dollars from the federal government to thank us for forfeiting our local decision-making authority.
The first problem stems from the insatiable appetite the federal government has for controlling every element of our lives. There really is no reason for congress or the executive branch to be meddling in how we educate our children or how we administrate healthcare. The root is the same. If Washington did not dictate to the states on either, we would be better off left to our own discretion. We are trading away our freedom on how to manage our own schools for a set of federal standards that will be defined by those in Washington, not those closest to the students like the parents and the teachers. We are proverbially selling our birthright for a bowl of porridge. If you don’t remember the story of Jacob and Esau, how about the story of The Pied Piper?
“Race to the Top” (RTTT) is a federal grant that allows states to get additional taxpayer dollars, but the process of getting those dollars requires us to place our state into a type of slavery to the federal government.
Here are some of the problems:
1.) There is nothing “Race to the Top” can give us that we cannot already give ourselves. If we want school reform, we can simply vote for the reforms the voters want, not what is mandated from on high.
2.) It will cost us $389 million to implement the mandates, yet we may only get $250 million back. While that may seem like a lot of money, when you fritter it out to all the school districts, it comes out to a drop in the bucket. Other states that were denied the first round of money agree that they may have dodged a bullet: Minnesota's take on RTTT
3.) The Missouri State Education Board voted to allow the commissioner and the president of the board to apply for the grant before the terms were established. After our state is locked into “the deal”, the terms could change when it is too late to cancel.
4.) This is all being handled on the bureaucratic level. This program is designed so that the power to make all of these decisions is concentrated where there no legislative oversight or accountability to the General Assembly. Contacting your legislators won’t help, and I will never have the opportunity to vote on this proposal.
5.) “Race to the Top” is far from over. Missouri is applying for the next round of funding. Since the federal government can print an unlimited supply of money, and since money is the hook, there will be plenty of additional opportunities to push until all the states are under the thumb of the federal government.
The idea that we are incapable of properly educating our own children without the federal government forcing us to do the right thing is positively insulting. I believe there are plenty of great professional educators who can lead the way without the necessity of a federal iron fist. All it takes is for the elected officials to listen to their constituents while applying common sense and reasonable discernment.
You may wonder with all these negatives why our state would be among those who are wasting our time and money to get into this program. I wonder too, but to offer balance, here is an explanation from another legislator who thinks “Race to the Top” is a good deal for Missouri and was chiding the Education Commissioner, Chris Nicastro, for not jumping into the application program back in November 2009 when he said:
“Chris Nicastro unconvincingly cited time constraints, a lack of funding to pay for the proposal, and the hefty resources needed to write a strong application, including more than 680 hours to prepare the application, as reasons for the delay in vying for the first round of funding — reasons that did not sit well with me… a decision not to pursue the Race to the Top funding during the first round of funding — for any reason — is unacceptable to me.”
Having served in both local and state government for about 16 years, I can say that I am amazed at how many elected officials appear to be naïve and easily misled. Education, healthcare, welfare and family issues should not be with in the jurisdiction of the federal government. Yet, some believe the only way they can change the country is from the top down. You can be confident that I will use the full strength of my position to fight against any additional federal encroachment. I still believe in public input. Our government is still supposed to be of the people, by the people and for the people. Until we take the money, we still can remove ourselves from the list. Now is the time to speak up. If you want to have some input on this program, you can contact Missouri Educational Commissioner Chris Nicastro.
It all comes down to one’s philosophy of the role of government. Pope Pius XI declared in 1931, “Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought in its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social and never destroy and absorb them.”
Must we lose our sovereignty, liberty and autonomy in order to beg at the federal feeding trough? There is an old expression, “if you want to get out of the rat race, you have to let go of the cheese.”
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Cynthia Davis: "Race to the Top" is "Race to the Handcuffs"
In her latest capitol report, Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, roundly criticizes the federal "Race to the Top" plan for education: