Tuesday, November 24, 2009

There Is No Free Money

Good article in the Spokesman Review today (link to come when I can find one) about Idaho's application for Race to the Top. Money quotes:
The grant application is due Jan. 19, and Idaho's proposal will include a plan to lift the cap on charter schools and pay teachers based on performance. These are both types of education reform Idaho public schools chief Tom Luna supports but has not been able to get approval for in the past.

"Many of the things called for in the grant are things we've been working on for some time," Luna said. "With this money we'll just be able to get it done sooner."


The union, however, does have concerns about what happens when the grant funding runs out, Wood said, adding that she is skeptical Idaho lawmakers will be willing to pick up the tab for a pay-for-performance plan when that happens.
As a wise man (not Tom Luna) once said, "Duh."

This is one time money. It's going to go away. Any state that pushed through a merit pay plan solely for the purpose of getting this money would be a state run by idiots, because they're going to have to pay every last cent the bill themselves as soon as the RtT cash is used up.

And let's say you use some of this one-time money to pay for the work that needs to be done to make these systemic changes--any money spent is that much less money you have to run the new programs going forward.

In three years, there's going to be a lot of states looking back on 2009 and 2010 and wondering what the hell they were thinking.

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Blogger Claus von Zastrow said...

One of the challenges with merit pay systems--for students as well as teachers--is that they're often not budgeted for success. Chicago's plan to pay students for grades stopped abruptly this year, because the district couldn't afford to continue it, and foundations won't be supporting such things in perpetuity. Imagine how long it could have lasted if more and more students started pulling down "A"s. I guess the district would encourage some grade deflation in a literal sense.

Because these programs are meant to establish reliable incentives, lack of funding continuity should be a huge concern.

12:46 PM  

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