The education media and blogosphere were aflutter yesterday with the results of the first round of RTTT grants. Most seemed at least somewhat receptive to the selection of Tennessee and Delaware as winners. As a current resident of Tennessee, I noticed many were abuzz with excitement. Me? Eh. I'm not sure I see what the fuss is about.
You may have noticed that I've said virtually nothing on RTTT over the past few months, and that's largely because I think its import is overblown. The selection process seems far more likely to impact education than the actual grants. Tennessee received about $500 million to be spent over four years. I can't seem to find the actual figures, but I believe Tennessee's education budget is somewhere around $10 billion -- and with the current state of the economy, over $100 million in state-level education spending cuts have already been proposed for next year. Not to mention the local budget cuts in Nashville, Knoxville, and other places. In other words, it's distinctly possible that, despite the massive grant, TN will still spend less on education next year than they did this year.
According to the LA Times, Tennessee has 964,259 students -- meaning that the extra funding equals about $500 more per pupil -- or a little over $100 per student per year. And, yes, this is supposed to benefit all students ("We're confident that all students in both states will benefit from this program." - Arne Duncan).
Did the rush to win RTTT funds yield some important policy changes? Yes. But please excuse my skepticism of the notion that a grant equal to around 1% of Tennessee's educational expenditures will transform our state's schools.