Texas Public Schools Sidelined in Race for the Top

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Texas will not adopt national school curriculum standards, the governor announced today.

"The citizens of Texas, not the federal government, know what is best for our children," said Governor Rick Perry in the release.

It isn't much of a shock. Texas was already one of only two states not to sign on to the initial efforts, and Education Agency spokesperson Debbie Ratcliffe said the decision was made months ago. 

But the news is a blow to Texas' chances at getting federal money. The U.S. Department of Education is currently conducting a high-stakes grants program called Race for the Top, where states compete for $4.35 billion. (Texas is eligible for up to $700 million.) The grants are awarded based on points earned for various components — not participating in core curriculum will cost Texas 40 points.  

U.S. Department of Education spokesman Justin Hamilton wouldn't say that Texas was out of the competition, but he wasn't optimistic.

"We’re gonna have a very small number of points that separate the winners from the losers here," he said. "40 points could make the difference."

The press release was good news for the State Board of Education, which stood to lose its power over setting standards had the governor decided to participate. At last week's SBOE meeting, members defended their power to determine curricula.

"This [core curriculum movement] is all from the top coming down and we don’t need that," said member Pat Hardy during the meeting.

TEA Commissioner Robert Scott told the board that forgoing the state standards might not be a "wise thing" and said that should the state commit to lower standards in exchange for grant money, "you might as well call [Race for the Top] cash for flunkers."

But Texas will still apply for a grant, and Ratcliffe is optimistic about Texas' odds. The agency has invested significant man-hours on the application.

"In a fair process, we ought to be very competitive," she said, "because we've got a two-decade track record of implementing education reforms that work."

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