Joseph Steelman
As the president tries to ramp up education reform with the administration’s new Race to the Top funding structure, he is receiving blow-back from the NAACP and a number of other groups. Their major critique of this most recent outreach program is that a funding structure based on competitive incentives during a recession cannot help the massive education problems that exist in the nation’s low-income communities.

The statement that the civil rights and other activist groups produced at the end of July suggested as a solution more of the status quo — or, at least, more for the status quo. It seems that their position is to give current schools more money (with no qualifier) and trust them to fix the problems.

Unfortunately, the economic reality is that money doesn’t grow on trees. Whether or not this attempt at ensuring that the dollars devoted to education are spent effectively actually achieves all the program's goals, competition for the grants will hopefully create change in a stagnant system.

One of the criteria in this system that the civil rights groups oppose is the use of charter schools. Today, an article in the Wall Street Journal pointed out that minority support for these institutions is on the rise, and the numbers suggest that nearly 50 percent of African Americans and Hispanics support the formation of charter schools, while only 14 percent of African Americans and 21 percent of Hispanics oppose them. It is time for these groups to stop playing politics in education. The current system doesn’t work.

The Show-Me Institute’s most recent policy study shows that superintendents in school districts across the state are receiving compensation based not on performance factors, but rather correlated with school district characteristics, such as population size.

The time to reform education is now; competition and a fundamental change in how schools are funded have a far better chance of helping the kids that need it most. Although Missouri is not on the short list to receive any of the grants, we should pay close attention to this new federal market-based funding structure and track its results.

About the Author

Joseph Steelman