School District Rejects Federal Grant Money, Claiming Race to the Top Doesn’t Work

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Times are hard for school systems across the country, so why is the Jones County school district, refusing $1.3 million in Race to the Top federal funds?

The school system, located southeast of Atlanta, claims the funding comes with stipulations, requiring that over half the money ($900,000) be spent on paying teachers based on merit, according to WMAZ-TV.

The school board voted unanimously to reject the funds. The money was too targeted and restrictive to help the district, Superintendant William Mathews told the TV station. Mathews also explained that research does not show that paying teachers based on merit works.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution made an interesting argument against merit-based pay for teachers. The article compares the environment in merit-based paid schools to that of a sweatshop with forced child laborers:

Teachers — workers in the system controlled by bosses above — will be exploited. Students — the “producing” workers in the system whose production of test scores will determine reward for those above them — will be exploited.

Telling teachers that their salaries depend on the testing performance of their students creates a hostile school environment, according the AJC, which goes on to say teachers can’t look at school children as assets and money shouldn’t be the incentive for shaping a child’s future.

The AJC found drastic swings in standardized test scores last year, which lead to a massive investigation of school cheating in school systems across Georgia.

Jones County was the only district among the 26 eligible for Race to the Top funds that chose to pull out of the process, according to the Savannah Morning News.

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