July 24, 2009
AFT Leaders To Scrutinize, Weigh in on
‘Race to the Top' Education Fund Regulations
WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers will judge the proposed federal regulations for the $4.35 billion "Race to the Top" fund released today by how much the program helps students, whether it is fair to teachers, whether it is transparent to the public, and whether it requires shared responsibility.
AFT President Randi Weingarten, Executive Vice President Lorretta Johnson and 10 local and state AFT leaders were among the 125 invited guests at a U.S. Education Department event at which President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke about the new fund and their shared commitment to improve public education.
The Race to the Top fund will provide grants to encourage and reward states for plans in four core education reform areas aimed at improving teacher and principal quality, academic standards, data collection and turning around low-performing schools.
The Education Department has listed 19 criteria on which to judge grant proposals. "We are going to use our own four criteria when reviewing the department's plan," Weingarten said. "They are: Does it help kids? Is it fair and helpful to educators? Is it transparent? And does it require shared responsibility? If the answer is ‘yes' for each, then we have a real chance of improving the quality of teaching and learning and raising student achievement."
Weingarten said the AFT will withhold final judgment until the final regulations are issued, following the 30-day comment period, of which AFT leaders will take full advantage.
"Will we agree with everything? I doubt it. But hopefully we will agree that teacher evaluations must be improved the right way. We need meaningful, fair and multiple measures for supporting and evaluating teachers so that evaluations aren't based on one observation by a principal or one standardized test score," Weingarten said. "But both the president and Secretary Duncan understand that teachers are essential to education reform and that their voices need to be heard as we launch this major offensive to improve public education."
Weingarten said she was pleased that the administration wants to implement reform with teachers, not to them. "Emphasizing the importance of obtaining teacher union support and a sign-off by local union leaders on the application is an initial down payment on fulfilling this commitment," she said.
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The AFT represents more than 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.