California moving forward on Race to the Top, will Maine?


Last month, it was reported that the Michigan legislature passed a substantive education reform package designed to strengthen its competitive position with regard to federal Race to the Top funds.

Now comes word that legislature of California, of all places, is poised to do much the same. According to the Associated Press,

The California Legislature has sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger landmark education reforms designed to overhaul the state’s worst schools.

The reforms will allow California to compete for
part of the $4.3 billion being made available to states under the Obama
administration’s Race to the Top initiative.

Under the legislation, state officials could
close failing schools, convert them to charter schools or replace the
principal and half the staff. Parents whose children are stuck in the
lowest-performing schools would be given greater leeway to send their
children elsewhere and could petition to turn around a chronically
failing school.

The measures also provide a method for linking teacher evaluations to student performance.”

This is, of course, an impressive array of reforms, and it comes, amazingly, from one of the most liberal states in the nation.  The reforms, naturally, “were opposed by the California Teachers Association,” but impatience with perpetually underperforming schools, combined with the chance to win millions in federal education funds, seems to have tipped the scales against the status-quo education establishment, at least in California.

What about here in Maine? Education Commissioner Susan Gendron says she intends to advance a series of reform proposals herself, but it remains to be seen whether the education lobby in Augusta, which is among the state’s most powerful and most resistant to change, will get on board.

If they don’t, Maine will continue to fall further and further behind states across the nation, both red and blue, that have taken meaningful steps toward real reform.