Peer-reviewed, discretionary federal grants, like Race to the Top, are indeed, um, discretionary. It will be interesting to see more information about why Colorado “lost” to states like Hawaii (which furloughed students and teachers on Fridays for the past year), Ohio, Maryland, and some others that were not perceived as national reformers (other winners, like Florida, were heavy favorites in any event).
If you think these decisions are mainly political, Colorado should have been a winner, with Senator Bennet in an important political race, a Democratic incumbent governor, and with DPS well-regarded by the Gates Foundation, which has lots of ties with US ED staff.
If you are less cynical, and view these decisions as mostly merit-based, the combination of CAP4K, Colorado’s growth model, local teacher compensation reforms like Procomp, all sealed with the “tough” new teacher evaluation bill, again Colorado should have been a winner.
And, Colorado did try hard to play this game well. The approach in round 1 included a public participation process that was wider in scope than in any other state, and a clear alliance with the teachers unions, to demonstrate implementation “buy-in.” When the teacher evaluation process was scored as weak, for round 2 Colorado produced important new legislation, in a tough political fight, that was meant to address that weakness. Since that fight alienated the union support, it will be ironic indeed if lack of union buy-in is cited as a fatal flaw in the round 2 negative decision.
In any case, this leaves Colorado without the federal financial support that would have been used to jump-start the implementation of several of these reforms. Given the state and district budget cutbacks already backed into this current fiscal year, and the larger ones looming in fiscal 2011-12, it will be a real challenge to finance these reform efforts.
Who has got some “gifts, grants, and private donations” ?
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