PA’s “Race to the Top” Plan Upsets Cyber Schools and PSEA

The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s “Race to the Top” plan – attempting to get about $400 million from federal taxpayers via the “stimulus” – has drawn a number of critics.

In its Letter to School Districts and Letter to Charter Schools about applications for funding, which are due this week, PDE specifies that only brick-and-mortar charter schools will be eligible for grants – i.e. to the exclusion of cyber schools and the 20,000 students they serve. The total portion available for charters would be as much as $5 million – though if charter schools received a share of the $400 equal to their share of total enrollment (about 4%), they would receive over $16 million.

CORRECTION: In a reversal, per a memo sent out on Friday, cyber schools will be eligible for Race to the Top funding.

At the same time, the PSEA – Pennsylvania’s largest school employees union – is also critical of the funding. When the the PSEA ever opposed more money for public schools? When it involves reforms like merit pay for teachers.

The state’s program calls for such mandatory changes as using a teacher evaluation system that factors in academic gains and such optional changes as implementing merit pay or firing half the staff in struggling schools.