NM Race to the Top: They Shoot Grantwriters, Don’t They?

So New Mexico isn’t in the running for federal “Race to the Top” funding, and is, in fact, one of 17 states that bothered to complete an application for Round 2 and failed to make the finals.

So what?

We didn’t want to be in your crappy “race” anyway Mr. Federal Education Person.   And PED Secretary Designate (which has got to be a total pain the ass to write as your job title all the time) Dr. Susanna Murphy press released yesterday that all systems are “go” to undertake the reforms specified in the NM application whether the Feds wanted to give us $75 million or not.  So there.  Who needs your stupid money in your stupid named “Race to the Top” thingie anyway?

Still, these developments do lead to one itsy-bitsy complex and unnecessarily confusing question…

If New Mexico is going to do everything outlined in a grant application for $75 million, are we to assume that some/all of the things in the proposal would cost money and that trying to implement them without getting $75 million is really, when you look at it, just another “unfunded mandate” that we have handed ourselves?

As partial answer to the confusing question, let’s take a quick look at the application and see what might cost some money.  But wait, my Adobe Reader can’t open the application .pdf, which is not uncommon as my Adobe Reader has been screwed up now for weeks.  Maybe somebody could get a federal grant to take over Adobe and start making some decent products and/or create a competing software program to Adobe Reader that actually worked.

Oh wait again, dear patient reader….I just found a simpler .pdf press release that my ancient three year-old laptop can process.  Huzzah!  In it, we read:

The Race to the Top Grant will request funds to provide professional development and leadership development throughout the transitions to common core standards, newly aligned assessments, and expanded teacher evaluations.

So how are we going to pay for all the “professional development” etc.  if we don’t get the $75 million?   Which we aren’t. To the tune of not even being in the list of 18 finalists?  To the tune of being no better than the States that didn’t bother applying in the first place, and probably saved at least a veritable ton of boring meetings in which buzzwords were strung together like “professional development to address common core standards and expand teacher evaluations to these newly aligned assessments”?

Speaking of $75 million, that’s how much you would have to pay me to attend a meeting that featured people saying things like “professional development to address…..”.  At least.

So, in summation, we’re back to Square One.  New Mexico has applied twice and been rejected twice.  We got the Gates Foundation to help the second time and lot of good that did us.  We got our teacher unions to suck it up, sign on the dotted line and lie through their organized union teeth that tying teacher pay to student performance can work, really it can!  Really!

We all feel a bit used, a tad unclean, and we’ve come out of all still dead broke.

So sure, Secretary Designate Murphy has to come out with a press release saying “It’s okay, we don’t need the money to do the reforms we spent hours and hours and hours of ultra-boring meetings devising.  We’re gonna do ’em anyway!” Such a statement is commendable and to be expected.

But she’s lying, right?  We’re not gonna do any of those things now, are we?  Or pretty much ever?  No way in Hell are we forking over own money for “professional development to address….” in these wintry economic times.

I don’t really have a concluding paragraph here.  As someone who spent some time, years ago now, writing grants as a state employee, I feel empathy for those folks at PED who grantwrote their brains out on the application.  All those meetings…all that wordsmithing.  Sorry guys.  At least you have 16 other state education departments with which to commiserate.

Maybe the Gates Foundation can pay for the first round when you guys get together at the next national state education department conference.  And the second round, too.  So to speak.

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One thought on “NM Race to the Top: They Shoot Grantwriters, Don’t They?

  1. I’ve always been bothered by terms like “race to the top” when it comes to the public schools. Education is not a contest; it is a process.

    The very idea of winners and losers should have been enough to have kept NM out of this “race.”

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