Race to the Top: the plot sickens

California’s effort to qualify for Race to the Top funds is proceeding in true California fashion – the Assembly has passed Julia Brownley’s ABX5 8, a bill that would address some of the kookier aspects in Senator Romero’s SBX5 1 and presumably still allow California to qualify for a grant. Meanwhile, the Senate has moved some of the SBX5 1 language into a new bill, SBX5 4 (Steinberg/Romero), and sent that on to the Assembly. So the stage appears to be set for a confrontation, if anything resembling a confrontation is possible as Sacramento turns into a ghost town for the Christmas and New Years holidays.

The stakes are high. School districts that want to receive Race to the Top funds (assuming California gets its act together, or the Obama administration takes pity on us and gives us money anyway) must return signed memoranda of understanding (MOUs) to the state by January 8; declarations of intent to apply must be filed by Dec. 31 . But here’s the rub – the state is going to ask school districts to agree to do something groundbreaking in those MOUs, but no one — either at the state level or the local level — is sure exactly what. In other words, the state is saying to Superintendents, school boards and local union leadership (all of whom must sign said MOU to have the best chance of qualifying for dollars) – “Just go ahead and sign! You trust us, right? We’ll figure out the details later.” Uh, no.

You think I sound too skeptical? Maybe it’s because I read this advisory from the California School Boards Association.

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