Sustained Outrage

West Virginia files Race to the Top application

State Department of Education officials filed their 133-page application this week for Race to the Top, a competition among states to receive part of $4.3 billion in federal education dollars.

To strengthen their application, the West Virginia Board of Education has asked the Legislature to change laws on how the state takes over struggling schools and county systems and how they fire ineffective leaders. They also want lawmakers to let schools pay teachers more if they’re in a high-need field like math or science.

During his State of the State address, Gov. Joe Manchin said he would call the Legislature for a special session if the state’s first Race to the Top application is denied. A second round of grant money will be awarded in June.

Some observers, like West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee, have said the Legislature could take up charter school legislation if West Virginia’s first application is unsuccessful and a lack of charter schools is cited as a reason why.

Charter schools often receive public money but operate independent of a local board of education.

President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who introduced Race to the Top, are known to favor charter schools and federal officials have indicated that states without them might be docked points on their application.

Still, some like state Board of Education member Lowell Johnson believe that the state’s “innovation zones” — where teachers can use new strategies in the classroom and receive waivers of many state laws — are a suitable alternative.