We donít have teacher unions down here, and donít have mandatory involuntary membership in those organizations. When I moved down here, I chose to affiliate with a group that is for teachers only (no administrators) and which is a Texas-only organization. Iíve generally been happy with that decision, and this announcement by the Texas Classroom Teachers Association only serves to confirm that I made the right choice.
TCTA supports the decision of Governor Perry and Commissioner Scott to decline to seek funds under the federal Race to the Top program.
From our perspective, seeking these grant funds would be a classic ďbe careful what you wish forĒ situation. Texas public schools would face significant policy shifts, concessions, and related costs if we were granted the limited, one-time funds available under the RTTT program.
In order to be reasonably competitive in the grant application process, Texas would have to agree to a national curriculum that has yet to be developed, related national tests, a commitment to authorize charter schools without limits regardless of their performance compared to their traditional school counterparts, and highly prescriptive and punitive changes in such areas as teacher appraisal, compensation, and employment decisions.
We think the price is far too high for Texas to pay. We do not need or want an increased emphasis on high stakes testing, the federal government dictating employment practices, essentially unchecked charter school growth, or the institutionalization of policies that are neither grounded in research nor good for Texas students and educators.
Our experience with prior federal legislation in the form of No Child Left Behind illustrates the dangers of assuming that federal funds will cover associated costs. Texas public schools need enhanced funding, but the limited funding and potentially harmful policy requirements associated with RTTT are, in our view, likely to result in a net cost to Texas education. The loss of autonomy and flexibility that are essential to meet the needs of Texas students is simply not worth it.
The extra cash would have been great Ė with some of it perhaps eventually ending up in the pockets of deserving teachers Ė but the abrogation of local and state control of education in favor of federal mandates that come with the cash is unacceptable. Even the points that I agree with Ė I support more charter schools and better curricula in core areas Ė are not worth the associated costs that come with a one-time infusion of grant money. The result of accepting the money would be a one-size-fits-all straight-jacket of centralized planning from Washington. That, my friends, is not the sort of change Iíve been hoping for.