Indiana will bow out of the federal Race to the Top competition after a highly public feud between public schools chief Tony
Bennett and the state’s teachers' unions.
Bennett, Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction, said Thursday that the state will not submit an application for Phase 2 funding in the competition run by the U.S. Department of Education. The competition offers $4.35 billion to help states advance school reforms.
“Without support from the union that represents more than 90 percent of Indiana’s school districts, our application will not be competitively positioned,” Bennett said in a statement released by the Indiana Department of Education. “Instead, just as today’s students have no time to waste, IDOE will waste no time as we continue our efforts to implement Indiana’s Fast Forward plan without the federal funding.”
Bennett said his decision came after the president of the state’s largest teachers' union, the Indiana State Teachers Association, declined to meet with him in an April 27 meeting in his office. Bennett also had invited the news media to attend.
“ISTA is more than willing to meet with you and your staff in meaningful work sessions, but we will not participate in a media event arranged for the purpose of strong-arming ISTA into agreeing to an unequivocal sign-off regarding the Indiana Department of Education’s Race to the Top application demands,” ISTA President Nate Schnellenberger wrote in a letter released by Bennett.
Indiana applied in the first round of the Race to the Top competition but did not even make the finals of the competition, in large part because Bennett’s plan won support from only 62 percent of the local teachers unions.
Two weeks ago, Bennett demanded that ISTA immediately support five key principles of Indiana’s Race to the Top application. Otherwise, he promised, Indiana would not apply again.
Schnellenberger responded last week by saying Bennett needed to start over on his Fast Forward plan.
Indiana could have won up to $250 million from the federal government, which is enticing to schools because Gov. Mitch Daniels has responded to falling state tax revenue by cutting state funding for public schools by $297 million.