I have a hard time believing any governor would turn down a possible $400 million in Race to the Top dollars but that is what GOP candidate Nathan Deal said today at a breakfast event.
When I heard Deal at the Georgia School Boards Association debate this summer, he pledged to restore the “magic of learning and joy of teaching” to Georgia schools.
If Deal plans to create magic, I hope that he can pull millions of dollars out of a hat rather than a rabbit:
According to the AJC’s Georgia Elections Central:
Former congressman Nathan Deal said that, if elected, he would decline the federal “Race to the Top” money for education that Gov. Sonny Perdue has so hotly pursued.
“Race to the Top has standardardized curriculum,” Deal said. “I do not agree with anything that has strings attached.”
“I would say it’s probably not worth the money we’re going to receive,” Deal said. “In the overall scheme of things it’s not that much money. It sounds big but when you distribute it across every level of the education system, it’s not that big.”
But former secretary of state Karen Handel said she would accept the cash, if the state wins it:
“As long as we’re paying taxes to the federal government I think I have a responsibility to make sure Georgia gets its fair share,” she said. “We should not turn our nose up at it.”
She said she would want to be sure “the strings aren’t too much to accept,” but later said the strings she is concerned about involve what happens when the money runs out.
UPDATE: I am going to leave the commentary about Deal’s quick change of heart to you folks, but take a look at this Gainesville Times story. I would like to make this personal note about Deal’s spokesman Brian Robinson, with whom I spent many a wonderful early evening talking Georgia politics when he worked for the AJC with me in editorial. At the time, Brian was in his twenties, and wise beyond his years about Georgia politicians from time spent in the General Assembly and from growing up in the state. This story would have left him, Pete and me chuckling. Somehow, I don’t think Brian is laughing right now:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal has changed his tune on federal “Race to the Top” money.
After initially telling business leaders at a candidate forum today that he would reject the federal money for schools, Deal’s campaign said Tuesday afternoon that the candidate spoke on bad information.
Georgia is one of 18 finalists in the second round of the federal school reform grant competition. The state could share in some $3.4 billion if selected.
Originally, Deal thought the grant program would force the state to adhere to national education standards and said he wouldn’t take it.
Deal’s campaign spokesman, Brian Robinson, likened participation in the program to taking free drugs from an illegal drug dealer.
“The thing with this federal money is it’s like a drug dealer: the first one’s free and then they’ve got you hooked and you play by their rules,” Robinson said.
While Robinson said Georgians deserve their fair share of federal tax money, he said it should not come with strings attached.
He said Georgia’s teachers are “adamantly opposed” to a “one-size-fits-all Washington bureaucrat solution.”
But later, the Deal camp reneged, saying Deal had learned the money did not come with a federally mandated curriculum.
“He is not going to return the money,” Robinson said. “That program will already be in place when he takes office.”