June 1, 2010
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On 'Race to the Top'
Today is the deadline for states to file applications for phase two of Race to the Top, a $4 billion federal grant competition that rewards states for, among other things, working closely with unions.
WASHINGTON—Race to the Top isn’t the express lane to perfect education reform, but it does give us a pretty good window into which states are serious about collaborating with teachers to help improve public schools and which are not.
During the Race to the Top application process, some states, such as Illinois and Pennsylvania, collaborated in a meaningful way with educators, parents and community leaders to help design strong grant applications that, if funded, could make a tremendous difference in children’s lives. Florida’s governor called together a diverse group of stakeholders to collaborate on a strong and competitive phase-two application that has earned widespread support. And New York put together a forward-looking, thoughtful teacher evaluation plan with multiple measures of teacher performance.
These states are sincere about improving schools to better prepare students for success in college and careers. Not surprisingly, many teachers unions support these states’ Race to the Top applications.
However, in other states, like Virginia, officials took a “my way or the highway” approach based on politics rather than what’s best for kids. Similarly, state officials in Minnesota and Indiana failed to include teachers in the application process—and then scapegoated teachers to deflect attention from the decision not to file applications.
What is especially troubling about the states that failed to work with teachers unions is that, as teachers well know, the common denominator for all good schools is an environment where the adults work together on behalf of the students. That is why our affiliates sought to be included in the application process, even in states where officials tried to shut them out. We are proud of their efforts, and we stand by the sometimes difficult decisions our affiliates made about whether to support the Race to the Top application in their states.
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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.