When House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey slashed funding for President Obama's Race to the Top, an education reform fund, he painted the move as a regrettable necessity in order to find offsets to prevent teacher layoffs:
"Mr. Obey has said, 'When a ship is sinking, you don't worry about redesigning a room, you worry about keeping it afloat,' " [Obey spokesman] Brachman said. "He is not opposed to education reform. But he believes that keeping teachers on the job is an important step."
Obey made it clear he’s no fan of Race to the Top, which he called “walking-around money,” “a luxury,” and, before backing off, even echoed the teachers’ unions description of it as a “slush fund.”
This description is nuts. The Race to the Top fund is a pool of money granted to states that produce the most serious reforms to their education practices. The only thing it has in common with a slush fund is that it's a fund. The grants are awarded on a rigorously defined, meritocratic basis by outside experts. The two states that have won so far, Tennessee and Delaware, are not 2012 battlegrounds. Moreover, the Race to the Top program has prompted a wave of school reform across the country, making it a phenomenally cost-effective exercise. Indeed, the unhinged opposition by opponents of school reform may be the surest sign that it's working.