Following a pattern that started with the Race to the Top federal school grant program, the Obama administration may soon require states to adopt yet-to-be-finished national curriculum standards to tap billions in federal Title I funds, according to a report today in Education Week.
If that’s true, that’s exactly what Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott predicted and feared when he and his boss Gov. Rick Perry made the controversial decision to withdraw recently from the Race to the Top grant competition. They cast Race to the Top as the beginnings of a “federal takeover” of local schools, and argued that the $350 to $700 million Texas might have gotten in grants was a pittance compared to the cost of converting to national curriculum standards.
Title I funds historically have been doled out almost solely on the basis of student poverty rates in various districts and schools. Tying the delivery of those funds to policy decisions on curriculum standards would represent a new — and, to Scott, troublesome — shift of the federal role in education. Only Texas and Alaska declined to commit to adopting national standards in exchange for the Race to the Top money. The Education Week report, however, quoted an unnamed source suggesting states who refused to adopt the standards may be allowed to access the federal money in alternate ways:
Mr. Duncan also is said to have told the governors that states that don't embrace the common standards effort in math and reading--so far, that's only Alaska and Texas--could work with higher education institutions to develop their own college and career-ready standards, according to the source.
But when it comes to awarding various pots of money to states on a competitive basis, as the administration is proposing to do in its fiscal 2011 budget, those that adopt the common core standards would be looked on more favorably, according to an Education Department official.