U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee today offered an amendment during the Committee's consideration of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to end the untested and unauthorized Race to the Top (RTT) program citing the need to fund other existing education programs like Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
"We should not be funding new programs when giant unfunded mandates like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Acts are on the books," Roberts said. "States are required to comply with IDEA, but the Congress has not done its job in allocating precious education dollars to help children with disabilities and special needs. Chronic underfunding of IDEA creates a financial burden on school districts, which have to use local budget dollars to cover the federal shortfall, hurting all of their students. My amendment will put federal resources where they are needed and proven effective instead of being wasted on an experiment like Race to the Top."
The amendment is endorsed by the American Association of School Administrators and the National Education Association.
The Obama Administration's Race to the Top is a federal competitive grant program meant to promote education innovation.
Unfortunately, RTT diverts funding away from other important programs, but we have yet to see whether RTT actually promotes increased student achievement. Grantees of Race to the Top funding have been given more than two-dozen timeline extensions and, according to a June 2011 General Accounting Office (GAO) report on RTT, officials in 20 states that were interviewed reported that applying for RTT required a significant amount of time and effort. In fact, "one state official estimated that her state spent at least 4,000 hours preparing their RTTP application." Roberts is concerned small and rural states are therefore placed at a disadvantage in competing for grants.
IDEA provides federal funding for the education of children with disabilities. It supplements state and local funding to pay for some of the additional costs of educating school-aged and preschool-aged children, and infants and toddlers with disabilities. In the fall of 2011, 6.5 million children ages six through 21 received educational services under IDEA.
The amendment failed with a vote of 10-12.
It is one of two amendments Senator Roberts will offer during the HELP Committee's ESEA mark-up. The second amendment prohibits the U.S. Secretary of Education from offering waivers containing mandates in exchange for relief from onerous provisions of ESEA.