The priorities of the Arne Duncan U.S. Department of Education are becoming clear in the regulations and guidelines being proposed to guide distribution of several innovation funds, all part of the federal economic stimulus package, that will be distributed to states and specific school districts through competitive grant selection proceses. Many people believe that these priorities will also guide the Department's strategy for the upcoming reauthorization of the federal education law, now called No Child Left Behind.
Proposals being promoted by Duncan's Department of Education include merit pay for teachers tied to standardized test scores, rapid expansion of the number of charter schools, expansion of private management, school closures along with relocation of the students, and termination of school teaching staffs with replacement by new educators.
News Coverage and Commentary on Trends in the Duncan Department of Education
October 26 2009: "They Stole our Public Schools and They Stole our Democracy..."a new Witness for Justice column, explores the meaning of the "public" in public education. An important question is whether requiring states to remove statutory caps on the authorization of new charter schools, as federal Race to the Top guidelines will demand, will serve democracy.
October 26, 2009, The Influence Game: Bill Gates' Sway on Ed Policy, by Libby Quaid and Donna Blankinship for the Associated Press.
Formal Comments Submitted by the UCC Justice & Witness Ministries and our Partners to the U.S. Department of Education
September 2009: You may read the Justice & Witness Ministries Comment on Proposed Regulations for Title I School Improvement Grants that the U.S. Department of Education has proposed as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus bill. JWM lifts up the need for equity in resourcing struggling schools and questions rigid and punitive school improvement models proposed in the rules.
August 2009: Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, controls roughly $5 billion in what has been called an "innovation" fund as part of the federal stimulus. Congress has no oversight of the spending of these funds; they are controlled through rules established by the Secretary. Duncan has posted proposed rules to guide the spending of $4.3 billion in what he calls a "Race to the Top" Fund, which emphasize merit-pay for teachers based on standardized test scores and pressuring states to remove caps on the number of new charter schools.
The UCC has sent in a comment, which is expanded slightly here to make it more readable: "Race to the Top" Federal Education Rules Are Misguided." Here also are excellent Comments on "Race to the Top" Guidelines by Alice Foltz, a UCC public education advocate and longtime high school history teacher in Virginia. Her experience speaks prophetically in her comment. Many organizations have submitted excellent and detailed comments. For in-depth analysis of the "Race to the Top" rules, check out these comments from a selection of our partners:
Comment from Advancement Project
Comment of the American Federation of Teachers
Comment from the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University
Comment from the Coalition of Community Schools
Comment of the Economic Policy Institute
Comment from the Education Law Center
Comment of FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing
Comment of the Forum for Education and Democracy
Comment from the Forum on Educational Accountability
Comment of Leigh Dingerson, Public Education Advocate
Comment from the National Education Association
Comment of the Public Education Network
Comment of United Voices for Education