Payne says South Carolina may not benefit from Round 2 competition for Race to the Top grants
State Superintendent of Education Candidate Kelly Payne today questions the overall benefit if South Carolina were to receive funding in competing for the second round of federal “Race to the Top” grants.
Because of concern about the effectiveness of initiatives included in the state’s grant request, she has declined to sign a letter of support the current State Superintendent has asked each Superintendent candidate to sign.
In the first round of competition, South Carolina was among 41 applicants and eventually was named as one of 16 finalists. The state’s final scores ranked sixth among those finalists, but only two states – Delaware and Tennessee – received funding. States must apply for Round 2 funding by June 1, with final award announcements in September.
Payne said the state’s Round 2 approach is overly restrictive with funding being pre-allocated to every district. She is concerned this approach severely restricts the benefit that could have been gained if instead the state had retained the discretion for which schools had the greatest need for change.
She also expressed concern over potential unintended consequences from taking another federal bailout. The state’s Round 2 cap is $175 million and awards will be given to ten states over four years. Citing the controversial No Child Left Behind law, Payne expressed concern for the way federal mandates often impose expanded requirements on states and require them to spend more money than they actually receive through grant funding.
Payne recognizes that the state has sporadically made improvements in student achievement, yet that graduation rates have increased by only one tenth of one percent in the last decade and that the state’s SAT scores still languish at 48th in the nation. She also notes that too many graduates lack college and workforce readiness.
Rather than to depend on more federal government intervention, Payne says the State Department of Education should require each school to be publicly transparent in how they spend funds, allow each school more budget discretion, and use timely, verifiable data to measure student achievement.
According to the Department, even if South Carolina wins a Round 2 award, the grant funds would be directed at specific initiatives detailed in the state’s application and could not be used to blunt the impact of more than $700 million in budget cuts to public schools over the past 19 months.
According to Payne, there is little likelihood any grant funding would improve our current system, asserting that the condition of our current system requires total restructuring rather than mere reform.