Delaware and Tennessee have won Race To The Top funding in the first round.
Both had stakeholder buy-in (from the unions and school boards), the Education Department says. Politics K-12 points out another factor:
. . . Tennessee and Delaware just happen to be the home states of two powerful, Republican lawmakers the Obama administration is trying to court in its bipartisan push to renew the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del. Both chair the subcommittees in their respective chambers dealing with K-12 policy, and both are considered leading moderate voices on education who have worked well with Democrats in the past.
Also noticing the Alexander and Castle factor, Flypaper’s Andy Smarick credits the Department for choosing only two winners, but says Delaware and Tennessee had plans that were good but not great.
The story here is just how important “stakeholder support” turned out to be. Florida, Louisiana, and Rhode Island had very good plans, but their unions didn’t buy in, especially in RI and FL. So those states lost.
Two other finalists, North Carolina and Kentucky, had weak plans but high stakeholder support. They lost too.
. . . Florida, Louisiana, and Rhode Island now have to wonder, “What reforms do we give up in order to get our stakeholders to support the plan? Do we lighten up on teacher evaluations? Do we give up performance pay? Do we take it easier on failing schools.”
The need for stakeholder support could give unions and local school districts a “veto” over their state’s proposals, Smarick writes.
Giving a veto to the status quo’s defenders will make RTTT “meaningless,” writes Jay Greene. “If people know that union opposition scuttles a state’s chances, then no state will apply in the future unless they have union support. This means that the unions will dictate what reforms will be pursued, which means that there will be virtually no reform.”
Rick Hess calls the results the Race To Consensus.
Looking at Delaware and Tennessee leaves me thinking that all the talk about bold reform was window dressing. The states that explicitly set out to blow past conventions, and devil take the hindmost, fell by the wayside. Florida and Louisiana’s bold, action-backed plans — which reflected a belief that they could push forward if they did so only with the eager and willing — lost out to states that obtained laughable levels of buy-in from school districts, school boards, and local teachers’ unions.
Tennessee’s plan is bold, writes J.E. Stone.
Mike Petrilli is better at handicapping RTTT winners than college basketball teams. His short list included: Delaware, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana and Massachusetts. Union support made a big difference, he writes.