Dear supporters of quality integrated education,
As many of you are aware, the Department of Education has recently announced a new Race to the Top competition for school districts. The Department is soliciting comments on its proposed criteria for the new RTT competition through an online comment box until Friday, June 8 at 5pm EDT.
We apologize for the delay in getting this email out, but there is still time to make your voice heard by posting an comment (of any length) on the Department's RTT page. Some of the members of the National Coalition on School Diversity are submitting a formal comment letter later this week, but we also wanted to let everyone know about this opportunity - and we encourage you to comment.
Our main concern is the lack of any priority for proposals that would increase diversity and avoid racial isolation in schools. We see "education reform" and encouragement of diversity in schools as efforts that can and should go hand-in-hand. Members of the Coalition submitted a letter in 2009 in response to the call for comments on the original Race to the Top competition; however, the Department declined at that time to include diversity as a priority in the first competition and has not modified its priorities in the subsequent funding phases. (there are of course positive things in the new notice, including good language on school discipline in Program Requirement 4, but our comments are focused on the lack of priority for school diversity)
If you have a few minutes to comment on the need for diversity as a priority in this important new source of federal funding for school districts, we strongly urge you to do so. You can view the draft executive summary and comment at http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition - and the "comment box" is at the same link.
If you have time to comment, some valuable themes might be:
1) Districts in particular are in a unique and optimal position to promote diversity, both within schools and districts, and between neighboring districts.
2) The Department has emphasized its revitalized mission to address racial isolation in public schools. (See, e.g., its Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity and Avoid Racial Isolation in Elementary and Secondary Schools (2011), making clear that school districts can lawfully work toward achieving their compelling interest in diversity, and its Supplemental Priorities for Discretionary Grant Programs (2010), including diversity as a permissible basis for a preference in federal funding competitions.) This competition provides an important opportunity for the Department to implement its stated commitment to school diversity in its most important competitive funding program.
3) Federal funding should reward innovative approaches to achieving diversity, and should not support proposals that choose to maintain or increase poverty concentration and racial isolation in schools.
Again, you can view the draft executive summary and provide comments until June 8 at 5 pm EDT, at http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Phil Tegeler, PRRAC