Last week I, and others, took the Dayton Education Association to task for its decision to scuttle the district's participation in the state's Race to the Top application. To understand this criticism, consider that the union rejected RttT funds in the face of a $5 million budget shortfall caused by rising home foreclosures and delinquent property taxes.

Further, Dayton's school district has seen 10,000 students flee for charters and other places in the last decade (shrinking from 24,000 students to about 14,000 students) and enrollment in the DEA has dropped from 2,000 in 1998 to about 1,100 in 2008. During this time the union has steadfastly resisted any serious reform, despite real efforts by different superintendents and school boards over the last decade. Dayton is perennially ranked as one of the lowest performing districts in Ohio, battling the likes of Cleveland and Youngstown for the dubious distinction of worst in the Buckeye State.????

If any urban school district in America needs reform, it's Dayton, and the reforms embedded in RttT are steps in the right direction. When asked why the DEA rejected RttT funding, here is what the union president had to say:

How would you like your job to be based on criteria over which you had no control? Let's say you are an editorial writer for a city newspaper. How would it be for your evaluation to be based on how many ads your paper sold? Understand, you are not being evaluated for your skills as a writer, but for something completely out of your control.

Similarly, a number of teachers in the Dayton school district felt that tying test scores to evaluations was unfair and had no bearing on a teacher's skill.

???????????Now we see the teachers are being attacked for questioning a federal program that is very vague, offers little that is new and simply provides for more high-stakes testing. Consider this: Teachers in Dayton spend, on average, $500 a year of their personal funds for materials and supplies for their classrooms. This translates to more than $600,000 every year donated by Dayton teachers for their students ???????.We cannot agree to language that eliminates local control over curriculum, has unclear language concerning schools' performance standards and makes the entire process a bureaucratic mess.

This excuse-making by the DEA, and its decision to ???????rob Dayton kids??????? of much- needed funds is what I'd call a ???????mess.??????? Reformers in Dayton face a tradeoff. Do you try to achieve reform within the district (requiring that you spend energy trying to convince a bankrupt teachers union with views this absurd) or do you instead support any and all alternatives to it?

-by Terry Ryan

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