The district and the union: not the Aesop Fable you know

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The first ever district Race to the Top (RttT) application period has come to a close. And it was a nail-biter down to the Sandy-extended end. (At least for Clark County, the extra days made all the difference.)

The most compelling (and worrying) pattern to emerge was the difficulty districts faced getting their unions to sign-off on the grant application. For all intents and purposes, the district RttT application requirements provided local unions with veto power, putting a very heavy burden on districts with active unions. Moreover, the burden was likely felt by union leadership as well. Leaders who opposed the state process would have a difficult time changing tack without drawing scrutiny from their local constituents. 

Union involvement did not take quite this form as states assembled their Race to the Top applications because, while states also needed union support, they only required it in participating districts. Thus no one union leader could block progress on the entirety of the state application.

A second concern with the district RttT process is whether districts in non-RttT states are facing much longer odds for receiving funds. The Department of Ed's aim in developing the district RttT process was to support reform-oriented districts. Unfortunately, districts a couple years into reform spurred by the state awards may have a significant advantage meeting the agenda requirements of the district application process -- not exactly a level playing field.

We'll have to wait to find out how many of the original 900+ districts that submitted intent to apply forms actually applied (and how many of those are in heavily unionized states and/or non-RttT states). But until then, some headlines reinterpreted:

LAUSD defies UTLA, only to get the smackdown from ED
Palm Beach says dead is dead
Fresno breaks ranks with the CA education quagmire
For once, what happened in Vegas didn't stay in Vegas
All quiet on the Western front: Denver advances peacefully

-- Laura Johnson