The U. S. Department of Education (USDOE) conceived the Race to the Top (RTTT) program to attract states to the Common Core Standards. The original Race to the Top program amounted to $4.35 billion. The current version of RTTT will be $400 million. In this round, Obama is employing a devious “end run” to bypass the state education agencies and go directly to the local educational entities.
Check this link to see what the school administrators in your state are planning to do with RTTT applications.
A. Race to the Top Winners
In order to encourage states to adopt the Common Core Standards (CCS), Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan conceived a devious plan. They concocted a contest known as Race to the Top (RTTT) whereby the “winning” states would receive funds to use for the Common Core program in their state. States clamored to compete for the grant money and agreed to give up their own curriculum standards as a pre-condition for the award.
About $4.35 billion was allocated to the original RTTT program. Out of the numerous states that applied for RTTT grant money, only 12 states were selected as “award winners.”
Race to the Top (RTTT) Awards* (2.24.11)
(Rank, Awards, Award / Student / Year)
|District of Colum.||16||6||$74,998,962||70,000||$268|
* Chart taken from “Let’s Get Off the National Standards Train,” 2.24.11, by Henry W. Burke and Donna Garner
Public school education in this country has always been funded primarily at the local and state levels. The federal funding is relatively minor.
Let’s take Massachusetts as an example. The state received $250 million in federal RTTT. That amount may seem large, but it represents only about 1/144 (0.70 %) of Massachusetts’ overall school funding for the four-year period. Most states have similar percentages.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is charged with the task of collecting and reporting state education data, much of which has to do with local, state, and federal funding sources. The TEA recently produced the 2009-10 Texas Education Agency Pocket Edition of Texas Public School Statistics (published in December 2010).
According to the TEA’s Pocket Edition, the per-pupil spending figure for Texas is $11,567. This figure includes the total per-pupil spending (i.e., expenditures) including local, state, and federal dollars.
Total Revenue Per Pupil — $9,965
Total Expenditures Per Pupil — $11,567 — This figure includes local revenue (47.1%), state (42.9%), and federal revenue (10.0%).
Federal funding is nice when we are getting it, but what happens when the flow stops? We all know what happened to the states and local governmental agencies when they got used to the Stimulus funds during 2009/2010 and then the funding ended.
Now that the Stimulus funds are essentially depleted, states and cities are running deficits and are being forced to lay off workers. In the same way, RTTT money is temporary, but the “pain” of Common Core Standards will last for many years to come!
Through Competitive Stimulus Grants, the federal government has handed out about $5.4 billion, as part of six grant competitions. A total of 41 states received grants; 10 states received zero competitive funding. Many of those 10 states still applied for the grants and changed their education policies to align with those of the RTTT grant application.
Competitive Stimulus Grants Awarded to States (9.21.12)
(States Ranked by Total Grants Awarded, Per Student)
|1.||District of Columbia||$105,253,403||68,681||$1,533|
Source: Education Week, “Competitive Stimulus Grants: Winners and Losers,” September 21, 2012; and U.S. Department of Education.
Summary of Competitive Grants Awarded to States:
Description Total Awarded Enrollment Grant Per Student
Total for 51 States $5,376,946,918 49,181,237 $109
Total for First 41 States $5,376,946,918 44,522,237 $121
Average Grant per State (51 States) = $105,430,332
Average Grant per State (First 41 States) = $131,145,047
Average Grant per Student (51 States) = $109
Average Grant per Student (First 41 States) = $121
Median Grant per Student (51 States) = $24
Median Grant per Student (First 41 States) = $33
Only 13 states (12 states plus D. C.) received more than $155 per student, and 28 states received less than $155 per pupil. The rest of the states received zero dollars! State administrators and their staffs spent countless hours filling out the RTTT applications, aligning their education policies to meet the requirements in the application, and then those states received a pittance per pupil or no funding at all from the RTTT.
So far, 46 states have adopted the Common Core Standards but only the first 13 states (DC through South Dakota) received sufficient grant awards to place them above $100 per student.
This means that the USDOE basically drove schools to follow the Common Core Standards Initiative then gave those schools only a token amount. [Can you say the word "sucker?"]
B. High Implementation Cost for CCS
To date, 45 states plus the District of Columbia have adopted the national standards (CCS). The following states have not officially adopted the Common Core Standards: Alaska, Texas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Virginia. I commend these 5 states for showing the courage to resist the national takeover of our schools through the Common Core Standards.
The biggest drawback to adopting the national standards (CCS) is the enormous cost of implementation. States will spend far more to implement the CCS standards than they will receive in RTTT funds. The California Department of Education estimates that it will cost the state $760 million to implement the Common Core standards; outside estimates place the cost at nearly $1.6 billion. Washington State estimates the implementation of CCS will cost $300 million. Nationwide, Common Core implementation will cost a whopping $30 billion!
Some of the items that contribute to the high cost of CCS implementation include: new textbooks, outside consultants, training cost and time for teachers, substitute teachers during training sessions, updated assessments, and expensive computer systems.
Let us look at California. The California DOE estimated that CCS implementation would cost $760 million, but the state received only $104 million in grants. This means that California lost $656 million on the deal.
[$760 million - $104 million = $656 million]
Under the higher outside estimate of $1.6 billion, California lost a whopping $1.5 billion!
[$1,600 million - $104 million = $1,496 million = $1.5 billion]
The lower $760 million estimate yields a unit cost of $122 per student. The higher $1.6 billion estimate produces a unit cost of $256 per student.
[$760,000,000 / 6,252,031 students = $122 per student]
[$1,600,000,000 / 6,252,031 students = $256 per student]
We will use the California numbers to illustrate the CCS implementation cost in other states. For example, California’s neighboring state of Arizona received $25.3 million in grants. With the lower unit cost of $122 per student and Arizona’s 1,087,631 students, the state’s implementation expense could run about $133 million. That means Arizona lost about $108 million when the state chose to adopt the CCS standards.
[1,087,631 students x $122 per student = $132.7 million]
[$133 million - $25 million = $108 million]
If Nebraska chooses to adopt the national standards, it would cost about $36 million.
[298,000 students x $122 per student = $36.4 million]
States are discovering that it costs far more to convert to CCS than they originally envisioned. That is why many states are experiencing “buyer’s remorse.” They were tempted by the federal government’s carrot, but that carrot turned out to be quite bitter!
C. Obama’s End Run
Not to be deterred, the Obama Administration and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan came up with a clever “work around” so that the RTTT funds (requiring schools to follow the Common Core Standards Initiative) could be sent directly to the local school districts in spite of being blocked by the state agencies.
This federal funding from Obama’s U. S. Department of Education (USDOE) is being sent for the first time directly from the federal department to the local school districts without passing through the state education agencies.
The USDOE is forbidden to dictate curriculum or testing provisions for local schools but the DOE is doing just that! This is yet another example of Obama’s overreaching strategies to put even our public school children under the direct control of the federal government.
Texas and Alaska have made it emphatically clear that they want nothing to do with the national standards. On January 13, 2010, Texas Governor Rick Perry and the former Commissioner of Education Robert Scott announced their decision that Texas should not enter the statewide Race to the Top competition for $700 Million; they knew the federal strings attached to the money would require school districts to follow the Common Core Standards Initiative. Similarly, Alaska has rebuffed the national standards and has made a strong commitment to adopting its own state standards.
Texas has the second largest school enrollment in the country. According to the most recent National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the Projected Fall 2011 enrollment for Texas was 5,011,000; California is the largest with 6,329,000 students. Nebraska had a 2011 enrollment of 298,000 students.
Unfortunately, local Texas school administrators are ignoring the dangers of the federal strings and are salivating over the federal funding. In Texas, 64 educational entities indicated that they will apply for RTTT funds.
In Nebraska, two entities have indicated their intent to apply for RTTT; however, one of those two entities is Education Service Unit 10 which has authority over 44 different Central Nebraska education entities. If ESU10 does receive the RTTT funds, those 44 entities would be expected to fall in line with the CCSI.
D. Nationwide Applicants to RTTT*
Nationwide, there are 893 school districts (and other eligible entities) that have indicated their intent to apply for the RTTT’s $400 Million “work around.” The deadline for these entities to file their formal applications is October 30, 2012.
* The following link includes the entire list of 893 entities in the U. S. that have indicated their intent to apply for the RTTT direct-to-schools federal grants (8.30.12):
This is what happens: Even though most of these local entities do not have a chance to receive the RTTT federal funds, the applications themselves end up driving school district decisions.
School administrators know their schools’ grant applications will not have a chance of being accepted unless the districts can prove the federally desired changes are already in place (or well on their way to being implemented) in their districts; therefore, the administrators, acting like little robots, configure their districts to match the USDOE’s agenda.
They swear to do such things as implement the Common Core Standards, base teacher evaluations upon student improvement on the CCS assessments, and collect the personally intrusive information on students, parents, and educators that is required for the national database.
Thus, the USDOE ends up nationalizing the public schools without ever giving the districts the RTTT grant funding. Entire states such as California applied for the statewide RTTT funds in 2011 and reconfigured their school district policies to match the USDOE’s application requirements; but in the end, California found out that their state was not selected to receive the RTTT grants.
The same outcomes will occur with the RTTT’s direct-to-school funding. Many local school districts will implement the USDOE’s changes but will not receive the RTTT funds.
The “carrot and stick” used by the USDOE – RTTT federal funds:
[The arrows mean “lead to.”]
National standards → national assessments → national curriculum → national teacher evaluations with teachers’ salaries tied to students’ test scores → teachers teaching to the test each and every day → national indoctrination of our public school children → national database of students and teachers
E. Practical Example for One State
This section provides an approach that was used to analyze the situation in a typical state. You can employ a similar analysis to your state.
The first step is to find out what the education administrators in your state are thinking. This link will show if they are planning to file an application for RTTT funds:
We will use Nebraska as an example. After checking this link, we found that two entities in Nebraska are interested in RTTT funding.
One Nebraska school district (Ralston Public Schools) and one regional service center (Education Service Unit 10) have filed an intent to apply for the $400 million Race to the Top (RTTT) federal funds that are to be spread across the country.
Educational Entity Application Amount
Education Service Unit 10 $20 – $30 million
Ralston Public Schools $5 – 10 million
Most states have a website that lists all of the Education Service Centers (or Education Service Units) in the state. Education Service Unit 10 (ESU 10) provides leadership and support for school districts in 11 counties in central Nebraska (Grand Island, Kearney, etc.). Please click on this link to see the full list of ESU 10 members:
The Ralston Public Schools is a school district in the Omaha, Nebraska area.
At first glance, it appears that there is no real problem in Nebraska. After all, only two educational “entities” have indicated they will apply for Race to the Top funds. We need to dig a little deeper into this issue.
When an Education Service Unit (ESU) is involved in an educational matter, it becomes a much larger issue. If an ESU submits its application to get Race to the Top funds and is selected by the USDOE, all school districts in the ESU region will be subjected to the Common Core Standards Initiative.
In other words, even if your school district did not sign the intent letter but your ESU did, your children’s education very likely will be influenced because the ESU trains the administrators and teachers in your region.
Education Service Unit 10 (ESU 10) includes 44 “entities” in 11 counties in central Nebraska. Out of the 44 entities, 31 are public school districts, 7 are faith-based schools, and 6 are “other” schools. Three school districts in ESU 10 include: Grand Island with 8,800 students, Northwest – Grand Island with 1,400 students, and Kearney with 5,100 students; the total of the three is 15,300 students.
Clearly, hundreds of students, teachers, parents, and administrators are involved in this ESU10 decision. The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) oversees the education of Nebraska’s schools.
The possible RTTT federal money is tempting for the local school districts and other educational entities. They need to look more closely at the potential grant amounts. As the Table (Race to the Top Awards) illustrates, the awards averaged $71 per student per year. However, that was based on a total RTTT program cost of about $4.0 billion.
Obama’s latest “end run” is $400 million (about 10 % of the original program). This $400 million will be spread around the entire country to hundreds of educational entities. (About 893 entities have expressed an interest in this round of RTTT.) If I assume that 200 entities will be selected as winners and each receives an equal share, each entity would get $2 million. [$400 million / 200 winners = $2 million per winner]
For this discussion, I will guess that there are about 20,000 students in ESU 10 (about 7% of Nebraska’s total 298,000 students). If ESU 10 is selected as a winner, it would receive about $2 million under my assumptions. This equates to $100 per student. [$2,000,000 / 20,000 students = $100 per student]
Please refer to the earlier Table, “Competitive Stimulus Grants Awarded to States.” This table provides actual data not hypothetical numbers. The table shows that the “Grant Per Student” varies from $0 to $1,533, with most of the states well below $100 per student. Based on these actual figures, I would guess that ESU 10 (if it is chosen as a winner) will receive less than $50 per student (about $1 million).
According to the national information, ESU 10 intends to apply for $20 – $30 million. Their application amount looks like wishful thinking!
Without a doubt, the schools in ESU 10 will spend far more than $50 or $100 per student to implement the Common Core Standards! In addition, they will lose all local control and yield their students to faceless USDOE bureaucrats.
The Ralston Public Schools is a District with 6 Elementary schools, 1 Middle school and 1 High school. Ralston has 3,000 – 3,200 students. Likewise, many people are affected by this school district and its decision to apply for RTTT funds.
ACTION STEP for Parents and Taxpayers:
If your school district or ESU is on the list, you need to go immediately to the administrators and school board members in your district and demand that they not apply for these RTTT grants nor make any of the changes that the USDOE applications require schools to make to get the funds.
You might want to include a few calculations in your analysis that compare how much they will receive versus the CCS implementation cost.
Please go to the following links to read more about the Common Core Standards Initiative:
2.24.11 — “Let’s Get Off the National Standards Train” by Henry W. Burke and Donna Garner. (Please scroll half way down the page to view the report, without tables.)
3.26.12 — “Two Education Philosophies with Two Different Goals”
9.14.12 – “Nationalized Public Schools Almost Here in America”
[This article was originally written by education expert Donna Garner on 9.16.12. Mrs. Garner wrote the article for a national audience but included specific information for the state of Texas. We modified that article and added the Nebraska example.]