President Barack Obama’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top contest is far from perfect, but when Texas Governor Rick Perry made the decision to reject RTT grant funds in 2010, Texas missed out on an opportunity to provide $700 million to school districts across the state. It could have helped Texas brace for the $5 billion in public school funds the state legislature cut in 2011.
“We would be foolish and irresponsible to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington,” Perry said in a press release from the office of the Texas Governor dated January 2010.
Even if the basis of RTT is disagreeable, that’s money that our school districts could have used — specifically Houston Independent School District, the biggest one in the state.
Perry’s decision wasn’t unanimous, as HISD superintendent Terry Grier disagreed. Grier lobbied U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for a local competition that narrowed the candidates down to the districts.
This year, the U.S. Department of Education announced just that. HISD will be able to compete with school districts across the country for up to $25 million in federal grants. The federal government will be offering a total of $400 million, divided between 15 to 20 applicants. The competition will be tough, but HISD has a good shot.
Each school district will have to prove they can individualize education through innovative teaching and personalized plans for their district’s set of students. Houston’s application will be based around the Apollo 20 plan already in place with additional enhancements and alterations.
Putting political feelings about RTT aside, HISD is obviously right to enter the national competition. Texas is sixth in the nation in “student growth,” but is 46th in average math SAT scores and 49th in verbal SAT scores. Simply put, public school students are not prepared for college. If they were, there wouldn’t be remedial classes. A bigger budget could help that.
Despite Perry’s stance on the issue, it would be foolish for HISD to ignore any opportunity to garner revenue.