Arne Duncan’s Dollars at Work: The Good, The Curious, and The Cautiously Optimistic

August 22nd, 2011

Category: Early Childhood Education

The Department of Education recently approved all 19 school district Race to the Top plans.  After combing through the plans, there are certain budget items that make me optimistic, items that give me slight pause, and others that require additional consideration. 

In their plans, some significant investments that make me optimistic include:

  • $1.2 million for expanding access to pre-kindergarten programs in Red Clay for high-needs students (which we know has a positive impact on student success);
  • $225,997 to employ a data analyst to understand and disseminate data to teachers in order to drive instruction in Indian River; and
  • The district-wide college-and-career readiness initiative in Colonial, which includes expanding the AP and APEX program and offering the SAT and PSAT to all students.     

Budget allocations that give me slight pause include $160,575 for up to 20 teachers/year to earn National Board Certification in Red Clay and $6,000 for minority teacher recruitment in Woodbridge. NBCT incentives were recently cut from state funding, so funds are being shifted for an incentive without clear results. And teacher recruitment activities—such as going to job fairs—should be happening without RTTT support.

And finally, there are a few items that require further consideration:

  • $6,035 to initiate a community Wildcat Pride Day in Delmar–will this make a difference? Shouldn’t the district do this with local or booster funds?
  • $2,250 to pay for background checks for teachers coming into Seaford from Maryland–is this not a current expense covered by the district?
  • $38,059 for field trips in Capital and $42,257 for inclement weather transportation in Laurel; and
  • $93,564 in Caesar Rodney for iPads, SMART Boards, and student response systems.

Without the local political context, it’s tough to tell the drivers for these expenses and the potential impact. But it is interesting to consider these choices in light of the goals Arne Duncan envisioned when designing Race to the Top, and to consider alternative uses for the funds

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Brett Turner



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