California wanted to apply for the second round of federal education grants but had too few school districts willing to sign on. The Obama administration badly wanted California to apply, in order to avoid the embarrassment of having the biggest state with the most children rejecting its signature Race to the Top initiative. The solution: The
It never made sense for the Education Department to insist that only entire states could apply for Race to the Top grants, or for that matter, that the states needed near-universal support from school districts. Though some of the goals of the federal program hold promise, such as better data collection, others, such as lifting caps on the number of charter schools or making test scores a major factor in teacher evaluations, are unproven ways to go about improving education. Many of the Race to the Top provisions are despised by teachers unions. California school districts, so strapped for cash that they already are demanding painful concessions from labor, are unwilling to further alienate teachers, or to take on new federal rules, in exchange for a possible grant that wouldn't make much of a difference to their bottom lines anyway.