TODAY'S QUESTION: Should the federal government save current teachers' jobs at the expense of education reform?

Monday, July 19, 2010 | 10:26 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Proposed legislation that could save teachers' jobs in the short-term at the expense of long-term educational reform has Missouri and federal officials at odds.

The $15.7 billion legislation includes grant money intended to help districts avoid teacher layoffs. According to an Associated Press story, the legislation could save approximately 3,200 teacher jobs in Missouri's 523 school districts.

"Virtually every school in the state of Missouri could benefit from this assistance," said Chris Nicastro in the AP story, adding that the severity of budget cuts have created huge challenges for schools statewide. Nicastro is Missouri's education commissioner.

The proposed legislation would be funded by cutting $500 million from a competitive federal grant program aimed at innovation and reform in state school systems.

The $4.35 billion Race to the Top program rewards states engaged in comprehensive education reform. States applying for funds are assessed in four key areas:

  • Uniform standards and assessments that ensure all students are prepared for the future;
  • Data systems that measure student success and help educators improve policies and programs;
  • Recruitment, development and reward programs that create a quality teacher work force (especially in under-served schools); and
  • Efforts to turn around the state's lowest-performing schools.

Missouri ranked 33rd out of 41 phase-one applicants. The state fell far short in several assessment areas, including its efforts to develop and equitably distribute great teachers and leaders statewide and to turn around schools with persistently low performance.

Touting the overall successes of Race to the Top — which encourages school systems nationwide to compete for funds by promising change — top federal education officials said they will advise President Barack Obama to veto any legislation that makes cuts to the program.

"We've seen more change, more reform and more innovation across the country in the past year than we've see in the last decade," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in the AP story.

Duncan and other federal education officials said they want to look for other ways to help schools save teachers' jobs.

Should the federal government cut funding for educational innovation and reform in order to save current teacher jobs?

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