Miami Herald: Broward School Board to reconsider Race to the Top support

May 11, 2010

The Miami Herald published the following on May 11, 2010:


The Broward School Board, which in January voted not to take part in Florida’s application for millions of federal dollars for education reform, will have a chance to reconsider its position Tuesday.

Florida placed fourth — after Georgia and winners Delaware and Tennessee — in the first round of the $4.35 billion Race to the Top competitive grant program in March.

Now the Florida Department of Education is gearing up for the second round of the competition by sweetening its proposal to try to attract teachers unions and school districts like Broward that did not support it the first time around.

Most of the state’s 67 districts signed on to Florida’s initial application, but only five unions backed the proposal.

The rest objected to how the state planned to link teacher and principal pay to student performance on tests — an issue that exploded after lawmakers passed a controversial teacher pay and tenure bill that Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed last month.

For Race to the Top, the lack of local buy-in hurt Florida’s chances in the competition, which awarded points for district and union support. Delaware and Tennessee had backing from unions and every school district.

But for the second round there’s a different application on the table — one designed by a statewide committee that included superintendents, school board members, union leaders, parents and elected officials. Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, whose district backed the first Race to the Top application, chaired the group.

The new document still includes pay-for-performance provisions, but unlike the previous proposal, some of the criteria would be worked out between districts and unions at the local level. Other factors that impact student achievement, such as poverty, language barriers and parental involvement, would also be taken into account for performance pay.

The U.S. Department of Education still has about $3.4 billion in funding to award in the second round. Florida asked for about $1 billion in the first round.

Broward School Board members will take up the new application at a workshop meeting Wednesday. Last time around they voted 5-4 against backing the proposal, despite Superintendent Jim Notter’s recommendation to support it.

Florida’s second-round application is due to the U.S. Department of Education by June 1. School districts and unions have to sign on or decline by May 25.