Monday, January 18, 2010


According to an Akron Beacon Journal (ABJ) editorial yesterday (Out of the race) some $400 million in grants are available to Ohio schools under a federal stimulus program put together by the U.S. Department of Education which the department titled Race to the Top.

The editorial named the Canton City Schools as one of three urban school districts which did not apply for a grant.

These grants are designed to deal with: (source - The Ed Watch blog)
  • supporting advances in standards and assessments, 
  • state data systems, 
  • teacher distribution, and 
  • assistance to struggling schools
 The ABJ editorial says that only 40% of Ohio school districts have applied.

One source (a retired educator and former Stark County union leader) told the SCPR that he knows of only one school district that applied for a Race to the Top grant (Canton Local aka Canton South).

So for Stark County the rate of application is about 16%, far below the unacceptably low 40% for all of Ohio.

Why are the application rates so low?

Again, according to the ABJ editorial, it is local teacher unions; not statewide unions such as the Ohie Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

Here is how the ABJ editorial writer summarized the objections:
[Race to the Top grants] "might require changes in how teachers are evaluated, compensated or assigned to buildings and classes in relation to student performance."
The SCPR asked Canton City Schools board member James Carmen why Canton City Schools did not participate in the Race to the Top grant application process.  Here is his response:
In order to participate in the race to the top grant each school district in Ohio had to sign off on a memorandum of understanding which described how the state would implement the grant if funded.

The signatures required were the superintendent, the school board president and the president of your local teacher's union.

The board passed a resolution at our Jan (sic) meeting instructing the board president to sign off and the superintendent agreed to sign off.

Unfortunately the Canton Professional Educators Assoc. was not comfortable with how the grant was to be implemented and their president would not sign off.  As a result, we were not able to apply.
The SCPR tried to get in touch with Pam Jackson, who is president of the Canton Professional Educators Association which is the bargaining agent for teachers in the Canton City Schools, for a response to Carmen's version of events,  but was unable to reach her.

However, a source close to Jackson (emphasizing he was not speaking for the union or for Jackson) says that his understanding is that the decision "not to apply" was a joint decision by the CPEA and the superintendent of Canton City Schools.

The SCPR asks this question:  What difference does it make?
Whether it is a joint decision or one that the union vetoed by not being willing to sign on, the fact of the matter is that Canton has not applied for sorely needed funds.

New board member Eric Resnick during his campaign forthrightly said that Canton schools need to ask for a new levy and soon.

How will the failure to apply for Race to the Top grants affect voter willingness to approve a new levy?

If the Canton decision is a joint enterprise between the superintendent and the union, then both have some explaining to do to Canton taxpayers.

If Carmen is correct and it was the union which scuttled the application process, then Pam Jackson has some explaining to do to Canton taxpayers.

And while we are into the "explaining mode," how about the other 15 Stark County school districts?

Northwest and Fairless are both on financial life support, why haven't they applied?

Why haven't the remaining 13?

Is it because the teachers unions are running most of Stark County's school districts?

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