Why Kentucky lost Race to the Top: No charter schools

Education commissioner says so

It’s sad.

If legislators had listened to us, and to the people running the federal education Race to the Top (RTTT) funding sweepstakes, Kentucky would have already enacted a charter school law and the end result would have been an easy win for us.

You see, with the extra 30 to 40 points that charters would have given us in the RTTT competition, we would have exceeded the scores of at least one of the two winning states.

Instead, we now face an uncertain future in the Phase II RTTT competition as our education commissioner scrambles to get emergency legislation for charter schools in place.

Read the Herald-Leader’s story here.

And the Courier-Journal’s ‘take’ here.

By the way, according to these news articles, Kentucky got a RTTT score of 418.8 while second-place winner Tennessee (which does have charter schools) got a score of 444.2.

There seems to be some confusion about exactly how much the lack of Kentucky charter schools cost Kentucky (the Courier article indicates 40 points, the Herald-Leader says Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday says it was only 32 points), but in any event Kentucky would have won a RTTT award if it had charter schools in place.

In RTTT Round One Kentucky asked for $200 million. Now we have lost at least $25 million because our Phase II award is limited to $175 million. However, we probably won’t get a dime from Phase II if our legislators don’t finally institute some real education reform by setting up a charter school program in Kentucky.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Looking at the RttT score sheets, Tennessee only received 29 of the 40 possible points for charter schools. The minimal number of operational schools seemed to be a concern.

    See pg. 15 of the link below (PDF):

    A similar, minimal Kentucky plan, would have likely netted the same result. To say the state would receive all 40 possible points is very unlikely. However, a 21 point jump would have placed Kentucky in the 940+ point range, making it the third state to break that mark and likely earning an award.

    With the promise of 10-15 states receiving round two awards, will Holliday and company feel the need to fully reinvent their application? Though the scores from round one have no effect, a similar score could be expected unless other criteria change. Seems like the team will go for "free throws" rather than "three-point shots" to gain extra points.

  2. Richard Innes says:

    Anonymous March 30 at 12:24 PM raises some interesting points.

    First, even if Kentucky only added 29 points to its original score, we would still have beaten Tennessee. While I don't want us to adopt a weak charter school law, even a weak law could have gotten us over the top.

    Second, I'm not sure about any promises concerning the number of states that will get RTTT Phase 2 awards. We expected more awards in Phase 1, and we also didn't expect to hear the results until April. I think it's unwise to make too many assumptions based on the history to date of RTTT.

    One assumption a lot of commentators seem to be making is that Kentucky is going to be competitive for Phase 2 without any charter schools. That is also risky.

    Kentucky just about maxed out scores for all the RTTT non-charter scoring areas already. Other states, however, can make more changes in areas that Kentucky maxed out to improve their second-round scores in those areas substantially. In fact, I believe that is one of the major intentions of the Phase 2 effort — encouraging more states to reach still higher.

    I suspect that states which remain serious about the competition (I think some of the 40 participants in Phase 1 may drop out, maybe some of the 10 that didn't compete in Phase 1 will jump in) are going to do a lot of homework on the Phase 1 submissions. The second round scores for a number of states are probably going to look different from Phase 1. The question thus becomes, will Kentucky remain competitive so long as it gives away somewhere around 32 points on the charter school area of RTTT? Unlike the other states, so long as we don't have charter schools, we don't have much slack to increase our scores.

    Other states do.

    In fact, six states from Phase 1 don't have to change a thing and could still outscore us in Phase 2.