Florida's Race to the Top has 14 or 15 side agreements
It remains to be seen whether they’ll hurt Florida’s chances. But the Gradebook has confirmed that 14 of the 54 Florida schools districts where both district officials and teachers unions signed on to the state’s $700 million Race to the Top effort also have side agreements with local unions that some say undermine the state’s bid. A 15th district, Gadsden, is set to approve a side agreement July 27.
Three districts submitted their side agreements to the state. The other 12 did not.
Besides Gadsden, the other districts to join the list previously compiled by the Gradebook are DeSoto, Charlotte and Jefferson.
The latest additions are all small districts. But collectively, the 15 side-agreement districts represent more than 700,000 students – 27 percent of Florida’s overall student population. The 13 districts that did not sign Florida’s revised MOU represent another 16 percent.
Will Florida’s application still get points for broad buy-in?
The Gradebook asked the U.S. Department of Education how reviewers scoring Florida’s application will be able to know how much local buy-in there is if they don’t read the side agreements. Department spokesman Justin Hamilton would not answer that question. Instead, he wrote in an e-mail, “if a state that wins deviates from its application, they will lose funding.”
Hamilton pointed out that Florida’s application “does discuss side agreements.” It does, on page 21, but it only mentions the three side agreement (from Marion, Hendry and Hardee counties) that were submitted to the Florida Department of Education. And while it notes that those agreements “establish that the parties will not impose any bargainable issues,” it does not mention that two of them also have language that says any collectively bargained changes will “expire upon either the expiration of the RTTT grant or upon the expiration of the funding of the grant, whichever occurs first.”
Most of the other side agreements unearthed by the Gradebook have similar language.
Do other states care? If they do, they’re not saying. The Gradebook contacted the education departments in nine states.
Officials in Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Louisiana did not respond. Officials in Georgia and New Jersey would not comment. Officials in Illinois and Rhode Island dodged the questions.
In Kentucky, education officials are “confident that the USDOE’s process for vetting applications for Phase 2 is fair and equitable,” wrote Kentucky DOE communications director Lisa Gross.
The Phase 2 winners will be announced in September.