I've been writing frequently here about the Race to the Top program, in which the Department of Education will reward a total of $4.3 billion to a few handpicked states -- those who plan to focus on a reform agenda of teacher merit pay, charter school expansion, national curriculum standards, and test-based accountability.
This week, the DOE rolled out regulations for its second high-profile grant competition, "Investing in Innovation," or i3. This $650 million fund will be awarded to local districts and nonprofits committed to the same agenda promoted by Race to the Top. For i3, though, the entities that receive the grants must also arrange for a 20 percent private sector matching contribution, typically from either a foundation or corporation.
On Sept. 24, when Secretary Arne Duncan finally admitted, in a big speech, that "many" American children remain racially segregated at school, and "we must work together to change that," I hoped the DOE would consider using Race to the Top and i3 as tools to lessen segregation. After all, we already know what policies would work -- and we know that integrated schools get better teachers in front of poor kids. Yet like the Race to the Top guidelines, the i3 guidelines do nothing to promote the importance of racial or socioeconomic integration.
So far, the Obama administration's commitment to lessening school segregation is no commitment at all -- it's just talk. And by the way, it's not "many" American kids who are segregated, it's nearly half. Forty percent of black children, for example, sit each day in classrooms that are 90 to 100 percent black.
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