Ron Pauls views on the Department of Education are clear and easily understood.
He views the agency as an unconstitutional bureaucracy that squanders billions of dollars that would be much better spent at the local level.
To illustrate his point, Ron Paul could find no better example than the Race to the Top program, which set up a competition among the states for a share of $4.35 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The word competition is apt as the Race engaged 50 or so education bureaucracies to try and out paperwork one another to get a share of the money. The professional grant-writers went into overdrive.
This federal intrusion into public education used the carrot of federal dollars to make states align their education policies with those of Washington. Those policies include complying with Common Core standards of instruction and more testing of students.
North Carolina was one of the winners in the competition among states, and our share comes to $400 million.
I was given to reconsider Race to the Top when Gov. Pat McCrory announced a $30 million Education Plan, most of which would be paid for by refocusing Race dollars. As a result, the governors plan which would also spend money on digital learning and innovative schools is subject to approval by the Department of Education.
What caught my eye is the proposal to award $10,000 stipends to 1,000 top teachers or master teachers within our state. The math is easy: $10,000 to 1,000 teachers is $10 million.
Kim Genardo, the governors communications director, was kind enough to shed some light on the proposal. She told me there is enough Race money to pay the stipends for two years. Beyond that, I presume that a new source of funding would need to be found if the program were to continue.
One of the plans aims is to have the master teachers provide feedback to policymakers as to what works best in the classroom.
From administrators at a local year-round middle school, I learned that Wake County schools already embrace the concept of Professional Learning Communities that foster collaborative learning among teachers. Today, experienced and successful teachers in Wake County are required to share best practices with their peers.
Genardo reminded me that the governors plan is statewide and that PLCs have not been adopted in every district. Furthermore, the governors plan would facilitate dissemination of best practices to all school districts.
The administrators I spoke with could see several difficulties in identifying teachers to reward with a $10,000 stipend. No administrator has seen all of the teachers in action and would have difficulty identifying the best teacher within a school, they said.
Having fellow teachers identify master teachers in much the same way Teachers of the Year are chosen might make the process more of a popularity contest than a means to identify the best of the best, some teachers told me.
If the governors plan is to be open to all teachers, it adds another level of complexity. How does one compare a band leader whose students regularly win recognition at the state level with a special education teacher who teaches a half dozen children with special needs and multiple handicaps with a math teacher whose students show year-over-year improvements in testing?
While I may not care for the Race to the Top as a vehicle to fund education in our state, I like the idea of the $10,000 stipend. The amount is hardly life-changing, but it would be a significant amount to a teacher earning an average salary of $45,000.
Contributing columnist Marc Landry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.