President Obama's new education funding initiative, known as Race to the Top, is a welcome opportunity for many schools struggling to make ends meet. But, some teachers' unions are urging their members to walk away from the funds because accepting them could spell changes to the way teachers are compensated.
Race to the Top is a competition among schools for their share of $4.35 million in federal grant money. Educators had to write detailed applications for the funds and, in early March, 16 states were chosen to come to Washington, D.C. to defend their schools' plans. However, some schools in winning states won't see a penny of the grant money because teachers' union representatives refused to sign the application.
Union officials say a big problem with Race to the Top is that it seems to favor paying teachers based on their students' success, not simply on years in the classroom and degrees held, as is currently the case. This view reflects an ongoing debate between teachers' unions and government officials about how best to improve teaching while adequately compensating educators.
"This is one of the largest investments in education reform in American history." - President Barack Obama
"Race to the Top would require that we talk about making changes to our contract, and that my members are opposed to that, vehemently opposed to it. So, they directed me to not sign on." - Kevin Deely, president of the Easton Area Education Association in Easton, Penn.
"This is huge. It's a huge opportunity for each and every child that's here." - Kerri Leonard-Ellison, a member of the local school board in Easton, Penn.
1. What is a union? Can you name different kinds of unions?
2. Where do you think funding for your school comes from?
1. Do you think teachers' unions should accept Race to the Top funds? Why / why not?
2. If you were applying for Race to the Top funds for your school, what would you use the money for? Why?
3. What do you think should be the major determining factor(s) in how teachers are compensated? Why?