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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Union buy-in needed for Race to the Top? Maybe not



To secure about $700 million in Race to the Top funds, Florida made a show of securing support from state and local teachers union leaders. It did so to prove it had the "stakeholder buy-in" that federal officials suggested was needed to prove its proposed but controversial reforms stood a real chance of being implemented.

Grant won, Florida education commissioner Eric J. Smith has now told superintendents that they can have some of the money even if union leaders don't sign an agreement promising to negotiate the terms of the grant. That "three-party agreement" is a part of the state's required scope of proposal that's due soon for districts to claim a part of the pot.

"If it comes in with only the superintendent's signature, it's still acceptable," FLDOE spokesman Tom Butler told the Gradebook.

That means districts could get some of the grant money to begin working on new student-outcomes-based teacher pay and evaluation standards without the buy-in leaders showcased to win the grant. 

The reason? State DOE officials see the plan's reforms as important enough to get districts started down the path, with the hope that any reluctant unions will see that the proposals can work for them and will eventually join negotiations. More than a dozen districts including Pasco County signaled their intent to participate in the grant program without union support.

"You need folks to be doing this and they need to be supported while they're doing this," Butler said. "Maybe with flexibility in the time line we will have some successes."

That's the optimistic view of those who see the RTTT effort as all good. The cynics among you might see this as an attempt to push changes through without regard to the opposition that might arise. Others might view this as a waste of money, sending grant funds to a district where labor leaders have not agreed to even negotiate acceptance of the results. Only time will tell who's right.

Race to the Top applications are due to the state for initial review later this month. 

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 1:45pm]


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