Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Race to the Top funding a campaign issue for School Board District 5 candidates

NEW PORT RICHEY — After a primary devoid of pointed attacks, Pasco School Board District 5 candidate Mark Swartsel has taken aim at his runoff opponent Steve Luikart on the heated issue of federal Race to the Top funding.

"My opponent in the School Board race, Steve Luikart, stated publicly that he does not think Pasco County should accept these millions of dollars in funds 'because of the hoops that we will have to jump through,' essentially the same words used by the teachers union president," Swartsel said in a campaign letter to the St. Petersburg Times.

Luikart, who led the primary voting tally, said he had expected the campaign to heat up now that just two candidates remain. But he said that Swartsel got his position all wrong. Luikart insisted he never said the district should turn down the money or shun the state's program, which includes a controversial proposal to more closely align teacher evaluations and pay to student test results.

"I just said we need to be cautious," Luikart said. "In my experience, nothing comes free. There are various stipulations that come with it and we need to look at it very carefully. … I don't know who he's listening to."

Luikart also gladly associated himself with the United School Employees of Pasco, a relationship that Swartsel sought to tar him with.

"The union, to me, is my peers — people who I have worked with over 32 years," said Luikart, a retired assistant principal who won the USEP's political action committee backing — along with campaign contributions — in the Aug. 24 primary.

He quickly noted that Swartsel, a real estate agent and developer, was endorsed by his peer associations. "Well, at least two of the three."

Swartsel said this issue defines the differences between him and Luikart. He said he could not understand any resistance to taking millions of dollars in tight budget times, particularly to accomplish things that the district already is required to do under state law.

He said Luikart "misstated" that if the district takes the money, it would have to hire people, only to possibly fire them when the money runs out. Luikart denied saying anything of the sort, and said he wants to ensure that the final state and federal rules relating to Race to the Top don't force schools to act against students' best interests.

Pasco could receive roughly $6 million if it participates in the Race to the Top. USEP and district officials have scheduled two meetings over the next two weeks to determine exactly how much of the state's Race to the Top plan actually is in progress in Pasco County.

USEP president Lynne Webb has said she's withholding her signature from the plan until she feels comfortable that she would not be giving up employee rights.

"I am just surprised by all the saber rattling that seems to interfere with the process," Swartsel said. "We need the labor union to support the memo. We need to get it in to the state and get the process going."

Swartsel stated in his letter that he was "flabbergasted" by the union's opposition to Race to the Top and also to Amendment 8, which would relax the state's constitutional class size restrictions.

"I believe that teachers who are members of the union need to tell the union hierarchy that Pasco County needs our fair share of these federal funds, and needs our voters to pass the class size amendment that is on the November ballot," he wrote. "And perhaps the teachers who are not union members need to tell them that this is one more reason that they are not members."

Luikart said he supports Amendment 8 as being in the best interest of schools. Webb was not available for comment.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Race to the Top funding a campaign issue for School Board District 5 candidates 09/07/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 9:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated

    College

    TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humiliation at Temple.

    Bulls tailback Darius Tice, who rushes for 117 yards, is elated by his 47-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
  2. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person

    College

    TAMPA

    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Where was everybody?

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  3. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  4. Bucs probe how to fix deep-ball chances missed vs. Bears

    Bucs

    TAMPA — It was only minutes after the Bucs had demolished the Bears 29-7 Sunday when quarterback Jameis Winston tried one final time to connect with receiver DeSean Jackson.

    QB Jameis Winston says he’s focused on the deep-ball chances to DeSean Jackson he missed in the opener: “We left a lot out there.”
  5. Rays journal: Ugly first inning dooms Andriese, Rays against Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's game that RHP Matt Andriese was among the pitchers who would most benefit from a strong finish to the season.

    Matt Andriese has a tough first: hits to four of first five batters, leading to three runs, the only ones he gives up in six innings