The final budget deal funding the U.S. Department of Education through Sept. 30 of next year reflects the Obama administration's success in fending off House Republican efforts to scrap programs such as Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and School Improvement Grants, all administration priorities.
But not everyone is happy about the choice to continue those programs, some of which reflect the administration's emphasis on competitive grants to finance education initiatives. House Republicans had pushed to eliminate such programs to make room for big, $1 billion increases to major formula-funded programs for disadvantaged children and students in special education.
That would have made some superintendents and advocates for districts happy. The National Association of School Boards, for instance, preferred the House version of the bill, introduced in the fall.
So did Kirk Miller, the superintendent of the Bozeman public schools, a 5,800-student district in Bozeman, Mont. He said in an interview that "formula-driven money that keeps in place promises that have been made in the past to meet the needs of our students outweigh [the need for] newer programs like Race to the Top." Those competitive grant programs "are not a level-playing field for rural states like Montana to obtain funding," he added.