Race to the Top Stumbles

TAMPA (2010-01-04) -

Florida appears to be stumbling in its attempt to win hundreds of millions of education dollars from the federal Race to the Top program. The teachers’ unions are refusing to sign-off on the state application.

A majority of Florida’s 67 school districts reportedly want to compete for the Race to the Top federal education reform money.

The rub is a 22-page Memorandum of Understanding drafted by the Florida Department of Education. It calls for signatures from district superintendents, school board chairmen and local teachers’ union representatives.

But, Jean Clements, President of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, said she will not sign the agreement as it’s currently worded.

“Even for Hillsborough, the way the document’s written, it would not be possible for us to implement and I would advise us to not even try to implement all of those things by next fall. It would be foolish,” Clements said.

According to Clements reading, the memorandum lacks flexibility, local control and has an unrealistic deadline requiring school districts to implement all reforms by August.

But, Clements is optimistic because the state education commissioner is talking with the state teachers’ union about changes.

Commissioner Eric Smith is traveling throughout the state this week speaking to school boards and other stakeholders to build support for Florida’s Race to the Top grant application. The union representatives' signatures are not a requirement for winning the grant. However, proven collaboration between teacher unions and administrators is considered a plus.

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