I am not one to mince words and am not going to begin doing so now. Race to the Top, the education reform platform espoused so adamantly by President Obama, his Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, and legions of wannabe reformers, is going to be the game-changer in American education, forever altering the public education landscape as we know it. This program’s impact has been felt here in Rochester – just ask Bill Gates.
Strings Are Attached
Local educators and businesspeople (oftentimes one in the same), in particular former RCSD Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard, agreed to adhere to certain stipulations laid out by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in return accepting a multi-million dollar grant to the district. With Brizard gone, is this agreement – and windfall – still in play? Little if any details have emerged since this news first broke several months ago. Nevertheless, it is probably just a matter of time before we receive official word that the accord was signed off on by everybody involved, simply because the amount of money dangled by Gates was just too good to pass up.
Where the No Child Left Behind legislation opened a window for our education heroes, Race to the Top is allowing these same people to crash right through it. A convincing argument could be made that those with the boatloads of cash are the ones who not only inspired the program but actually assisted with crafting its language. As we all know well in this country, money certainly talks, and the wannabes walk. With reform-minded individuals like Gates and fellow billionaires Eli Broad, Michael Dell and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg willing to throw around money like Halloween candy, it’s no wonder scores of anti-union and righteously-compelled reform movements and organizations (which have received seed money from these benefactors) have been launched and able to gain, in some cases, considerable traction.
It Might Be All Downhill From Here
All in all, Race to the Top signifies the heightened awareness of our failing public school system. But it also demonstrates the lengths to which some people will go in an attempt to prove a point or to make a buck. It also has presented us with strange bedfellows, most notably, to date, the association between Gates and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. Weingarten claims to disagree with much of what Gates stands for educationally speaking but apparently believes that he understands the importance of supporting our teachers. I would suggest to Weingarten that she be careful, that Gates could be extending a warm handshake with her, all the while instructing someone to be behind her, trying to take her out at the knees.
To assign to this viewpoint a more local perspective, imagine RBA President Sandy Parker aligning herself with RTA President Adam Urbanski. It’s just not good and very likely never to happen. Imagine if a few disgruntled and idealistic union members form a splinter group and catch the eye of a well-funded change agent. Then…Voila! Instant cash and credibility. It is reportedly happening all across the country, and with staggering effect. Sort of like a two-pronged attack, in which the battle is waged head on, with a second being employed from within, just in case the direct approach doesn’t work.
Find me on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/andytomreed