It's official: VA declines to participate in RttT

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Olympia Meola of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Virginia is quitting the Race to the Top. Why? It does not want to jettison its “Standards of Learning.”

In a pointed letter to federal education officials relaying why Virginia will not reapply for the Obama administration’s grant program, Gov. Bob McDonnell said the Obama administration’s strong push for states to adopt common standards as a key part of the Race to the Top competitive program “is overly prescriptive and disregards individual state initiatives and progress.”

States, like Virginia, that were not awarded grants in the $4 billion program’s first round could try again by June 1. Virginia sought $350 million the first time. The budget for its second bid is now capped at $250 million.

McDonnell described his decision not to apply as disappointing. His staff frequently mentioned the potential to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in federal cash through Race to the Top when moving his three education reforms through this year’s legislative session.

The Republican governor often cites his shared ground with Democratic President Barack Obama on school reforms, including charter schools and merit pay. But casting aside the SOL framework, which has been created, implemented and updated over four gubernatorial administrations, was out of the question.

“We’ve been working on this for 15 years, ” McDonnell told reporters yesterday. “Our standards are much superior. They’re well-accepted, they’re validated.”

And Virginia’s standards are not as strong as Massachusetts. But our education leaders are preparing to drop our nation-leading standards. So McDonnell proves to be a governor who can agree sometimes and disagree sometimes with the president based on merit. Massachusetts is a state with really talented people in all walks of life, with perhaps special talent in the area of short-sighted, superficial political leadership.