From California to Vermont, the Obama administration has issued a challenge to schools nationwide: reform or miss out on the chance to receive millions of dollars in stimulus funds.
"We know the race to the top for some states is wonderful and I applaud Secretary Duncan for challenging us to improve education. Does it fit for every state? We're not sure," said Vermont Education Commissioner Armando Vilaseca.
Under the Race to the Top program, states compete for cash. Those that commit to major reforms, like tying teacher's salaries to test scores or expanding charter schools or receive the most points. Vermont's largest teachers union wants the state to apply.
"The idea is to apply in hopes the federal government will take into consideration we are small and we are rural and we would like to make some movement in this direction, and hopefully they'll make some allowances," said Martha Allen, President of the Vermont National Education Association.
The problem is, the union and others don't support the specific changes necessary to win.
"To tie pay to test scores just wouldn't work in Vermont especially. We don't feel the need to have a charter school law. We have a lot of similar programs in our state that go along with that," said Allen.
The Vermont Education Department is now trying to decide whether to even submit an application. Vermont passed up the chance to compete in the first round of the program, and only two states were awarded grants. Many here believe it may not be worth time, arguing education reform is in the works in Vermont, just not in the form of charter schools or performance based pay.
"You look at all those things and if we don't have the support of all 100 percent of the professional organizations we're not going to be in any position to be competitive," said Vilaseca.
The education department will make a final decision on whether to compete for grant money later this week.
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