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Christian Group Protests Race to the Top Christian Group Protests Race to the Top

Christian Group Protests Race to the Top

by Nikhil Swaminathan
June 23, 2010

As with a number of his policy initiatives, Barack Obama has encountered a lot of resistance to his education plan, primarily embodied by the Race to the Top program, which will award more than $4 billion in federal funding to states that show a dedicated effort to reform. States' applications are bolstered by adopting tenets espoused by the Obama administration, such as lifting caps on the number of charter schools and adopting the recent Common Core Standards developed by the National Governors Association.

Add the ecumenical group called the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, an organization that boasts a membership of more than 45 million people, to the list of those who think racing is no good for education. The Washington Post blog The Answer Sheet posted a letter the group sent to the White House (pdf), where the group outlines its reasons for opposition, which include democratic governance of public schools over marketplace pressures, each child's right to educational opportunity, the use of business-style jargon and evaluations in the discussion of education reform, and the disrespect shown by the reform movement toward public school teachers and principals.  

Their primary concern: the injection of school choice into the equation dilutes the equal access of opportunity to students.

We are concerned today when we hear the civil right to education being re-defined as the right to school choice, for we know that equitable access to opportunity is more difficult to ensure in a mass of privatized alternatives to traditional public schools or in school districts being carved apart into small schools of choice. Experimentation with small schools must not cause us to lose sight of society's obligation to serve all children with appropriate services; we must continue to expect public school districts to provide a complete range of services accessible to children in every neighborhood of our cities.
Elsewhere, the letter argues that Race to the Top is at odds with Title I funding, which is supposed to shift resources toward schools that cater to low-income populations. Also, that the President's reform agenda devalues teachers and other school staff. They also promise to help support a reformed reform agenda that ensures "that untested models of school reform are not imposed from above in our nation's most fragile school districts."
 
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