Education Week - October 16, 2013 - (Page 24)
Districts File Applications
For Race to Top Funding
POLITICS K-12_News | Despite some delivery
problems that came alongside a federal
government shutdown, 219 applicants made
the Oct. 3 deadline for the U.S. Department of
Education’s second Race to the Top district contest.
A few more from Colorado may have trickled in,
however, as districts affected by flooding in that
state had until Oct. 10 to apply.
This year’s applications, made by districts and
groups of districts, represent 678 school systems
in 44 states. The only states without any
Race to the Top district applicants were Iowa,
Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont,
and Wyoming—plus Hawaii and the District of
Columbia, which count as just one district each.
Awards will range from $4 million to $30
million, with a total of $120 million to be
Last year, the U.S. Department of Education
received 317 applicants, so interest is down. But
so is the money up for grabs. Last year, $400
million was awarded; less than half that is now
available. The money will be awarded by the end
of the calendar year, even if that means calling
back some federal employees to work on the
Education on Horizon for 2014 Elections
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 21
special session where lawmakers ultimately
stopped short of agreeing to a “permanent
underfunding” of K-12. She also said her
filibuster would have the long-term effect of
giving more prominence to voices of teachers
and parents opposed to a reduced budget.
In the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers approved a $3.4 billion boost in education funding, up to a total of $52.7 billion,
for the 2014-15 fiscal biennium (the Texas
Legislature meets every other year), a decision that Ms. Davis also highlighted in
her kick-off speech. A lawsuit opposing the
2011 cuts is making its way through the
Texas legal system.
In 2009, Ms. Davis introduced a bill to provide easier access for severely autistic students to therapeutic services. But when she
came to believe that the bill could be used to
implement vouchers, she pulled it, recalled
Kathy Miller, the president of the Texas
Freedom Network, a K-12 advocacy group
that considers Ms. Davis an ally.
“She ultimately understood that the bill
could be damaging to public schools,” Ms.
This year, her vocal opposition to a proposal from Republican Sen. Dan Patrick,
Ms. Davis is starting out as the decided
underdog in the race, which so far also
features state Attorney General Greg Abbott on the Republican side (other gop
candidates include a former chairman of
the Texas Republican Party, Tom Pauken).
The state government is controlled by the
gop, the state hasn’t elected a Democratic
chief executive since 1990, and Texas has
voted for the Republican candidate in
every presidential election since 1980.
Early polling shows Mr. Abbott with a
lead, but many respondents said they
didn’t know enough about the candidates
to choose a favorite.
With lingering questions about the state’s
K-12 funding system and new proposals
likely on the way from school choice advocates, “2015 is definitely going to be a
major, major education session in Texas,”
regardless of who wins in Texas next year,
said James Golsan, an education policy analyst at the nonpartisan Texas Public Policy
Foundation, which supports vouchers and
Legal Showdown Looms
In Kansas Funding Case
STATE EDWATCH_News | If you’re interested in
a K-12 political battle that doesn’t pit one group
of lawmakers against another, look no further
than Kansas, where the state Supreme Court
and legislators seem to be at loggerheads over
the future of education spending in the state.
What’s the story? The Kansas Supreme
Court is considering a 2010 lawsuit brought by
several school districts, Gannon v. Kansas. The
districts argue that the state has failed to live up
to its constitutional obligation to fund schools.
Specifically, the 2010 suit says the state hasn’t
abided by a 2006 ruling from the same court,
in Montoy v. Kansas, in which justices said the
legislature wasn’t making “suitable provision” for
paying for public education, referring to language
in Article Six of the Kansas Constitution.
After the 2006 ruling and much “wrangling,”
as the Kansas City Star puts it, lawmakers
agreed to pump about $750 million in new
money into schools. But the state got slammed
by the Great Recession, and the new funds
This in turn led to the 2010 Gannon
lawsuit, which is essentially a continuation
of Montoy. Earlier this year, a Kansas district
court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, who are
seeking at least $440 million in new funding,
a per-student spending boost from $3,800
to $4,500. Now that the case is before the
Supreme Court, the judges are making it clear
that the onus for the current legal wrangling
in court rests with the state.
“It stands before me, in my eyes, as a broken
promise,” Justice Eric Rosen said during
arguments on Oct. 8.
But state Solicitor General Stephen
McAllister claimed that simply increasing
funding commitments wasn’t a sustainable
model. “The legislature has to deal with the real
world,” he said. “The constitution shouldn’t be a
During the 2013 legislative session, Kansas lawmakers seemed to sense that the court
wouldn’t necessarily look favorably on their budget decisions with respect to Montoy and Gannon.
For a February story I wrote about school funding
lawsuits, I quoted Kansas Senate President
Susan Wagle, a Republican, about the issue: “We
believe [the justices] should not be appropriators
and that that role should be clearly left in the
hands of elected officials.”
the chairman of the Senate’s education
committee, to create tax-credit scholarships for private school tuition also exposed typical rifts between the parties
on certain education policies. Ms. Davis
argued that funds directed to private
schools through the tax credits “would
have otherwise gone to the public school
At the same time, there was strong bipartisan support this year in the Texas
legislature for House Bill 5, which reduced
the number of tests students are required
to take, noted Matt Prewett, the founder of
Texas Parents Union, a nonpartisan group.
In a May statement supporting the bill, Ms.
Davis said it meant teachers “will be assessing their children with far fewer tests, but
with a curriculum that makes sense.”
“If you want to bridge the divide, K-12
education is a very good place to start,” Mr.
Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat,
has vowed in her gubernatorial campaign
to protect state funding for schools and to
fight voucher proposals.
High Court Term Opens Amid Federal Shutdown
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 21
(No. 12-1479) argued that her remarks
were private speech, and that the school
engaged in viewpoint discrimination in
Campaign Finance, Age Bias
The court also heard arguments last
week in two cases of interest to educators.
In a case about campaign finance, the
politically active teachers’ unions filed or
joined friend-of-the-court briefs arguing
for upholding aggregate federal limits on
contributions by individuals. The aggregate
limits are meant to prevent a donor from
circumventing direct campaign-contribution limits by giving to multiple candidates,
parties, and party committees, all in support of a desired candidate.
The limits are being challenged on First
Amendment free-speech grounds by Shaun
24 | EDUCATION WEEK | October 16, 2013 | www.edweek.org
McCutcheon, an Alabama business owner
and Republican Party activist, who would
like to give more than current limits allow.
The National Education Association, citing its interest in “fair elections and clean
government,” said in its brief that the aggregate limits are justified “by the compelling interest in combating both the reality
and appearance of corruption arising from
large campaign contributions.”
The American Federation of Teachers
made a similar point in its brief, saying that
without the aggregate limits, “a small cadre
of donors will be able to contribute millions
of dollars to candidates, parties, and political action committees, and candidates and
officeholders will be permitted to solicit large
sums from potential donors, functionally reviving the ‘soft money’ system that Congress
acted to end a mere 11 years ago.”
At the Oct. 8 arguments in McCutcheon v.
Federal Election Commission (No. 12-536),
the court’s conservative members appeared
skeptical of the aggregate limits, while the
court’s liberals suggested they were necessary to stem the growing influence of
wealthy donors in federal elections.
On a separate matter, the justices a day
before heard arguments in Madigan v. Levin
(No. 12-872), a case about whether public
employees may sue for age discrimination
under the equal-protection clause of the 14th
Amendment in addition to the federal Age
Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
The question is significant, and the case
drew friend-of-the-court briefs from the
National School Boards Association (on the
side of public employers) and the nea (on
the side of employees).
The oral arguments exposed procedural
problems with the case, brought by a 61-yearold assistant state attorney general in Illinois
who claims he suffered age bias when he was
dismissed and replaced by a younger lawyer.
The justices indicated they might dismiss the
appeal or send the case back to lower courts.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 16, 2013
Sequester May Linger, Some Fear
Parent-Sparked Charter Faces Challenge to Deliver
Pa. Texting Furor Shows Difficulties Facing IT Leaders
Educators Launch Startups; See Steep Learning Curve
News in Brief
Teachers Use Social-Emotional Programs to Manage Classes
Ind. Districts, AG File Suit Over Federal Health-Care Law
Hospital Partnership Provides Trainers for School Sports
Mass. Enterprise Targets Inadequate Preschool Facilities
Blogs of the Week
Tablet-Computing Initiatives Suffer Major Setbacks
Charter-Campaign Aftershocks Continue
Texas Race Flags Education Issues On 2014 Electoral Horizon
School-Related Cases Factor in Supreme Court’s First Week Back
Lights On, Nobody There As Ed. Dept. Weathers Shutdown
Blogs of the Week
KEVIN MEUWISSEN: Teachers as Political Actors
ANDRE BENITO MOUNTAIN: Easing Social Studies Through Turbulent Times
JUDY WALLIS: A Call to Teachers: Don’t Forget the Joy
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
DEBORAH STIPEK: Using Accountability to Promote Motivation, Not Undermine It
Education Week - October 16, 2013