Ideas: The "Race To The Top Of Maryland Avenue" Act
The "Race To The Top Of Maryland Avenue" (RTTTOMA) Act is a $50 billion competitive grant program designed to incent the US Department of Education to make itself dramatically better over the next two years.
This bold proposal hidden deep in the fine print accompanying the FY2011 budget request is just coming to light, apparently inserted there by White House staffers concerned about self-satisfaction and stagnant performance at the US Department of Education.
Read below for program details and a preliminary response from the Education Secretary.
Highlights. The program would:
- Provide choice: The RTTTOMA Act would require the USDE to eliminate barriers against other Cabinet agencies providing education services and operating education programs, regardless of any possible duplication, cherry-picking, or performance issues that may occur.
- Improve human capital. The RTTTOMA Act would require the USDE to eliminate barriers against the hiring of freshly-minted college grads into key senior positions. A Mathematica study shows that interns from elite universities can manage grants and evaluate programs as well as any career employee.
- Measure progress fairly. The RTTTOMA Act would measure Departmental performance based on as-yet undetermined measures of progress and readiness rather than current measures (meeting deadlines, reducing overhead costs, eliminating waste) that are arbitrary, Utopian, and overly punitive.
Of course, Congress would have to approve the funding for the new program and the USDE would have to apply for the grant. Early indications are that Secretary Duncan considers it overly prescriptive, based on unproven ideas, and too small to be worth the effort.
"Some of the stuff in there sounds good, but a lot of it is just Washington mumbo-jumbo," said Secretary Duncan in a phone interview yesterday. "And what happens after two years?"