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Gist heads to D.C. with ‘Race’ application

May 27, 2010

State officials will submit Rhode Island’s Race to the Top application with support from just one of the state’s two teachers’ unions. The National Education Association of Rhode Island has not endorsed the reform plan, which state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist plans to take with her to Washington, D.C. later today. Just two of the NEA’s 26 local presidents have endorsed the application.

State officials had hoped for broad union support for the application, which seeks up to $75 million. Delaware and Tennessee, the first-round “Race to the Top” winners, both had nearly universal union buy-in. The Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, the state’s other teachers’ union, said the process for round two was more inclusive and changes were made that allowed them to sign onto the proposal. NEA officials say they still have concerns.

“There’s still time if Rhode Island becomes a finalist, but as of right now based on conversations with our local presidents and how our members feel we’re not signing on,” said Larry Purtill, president of the NEA Rhode Island. He cited several concerns including a call for 51% of teacher evaluations to be based on student performance.

In the end, just nine local union presidents and one state-wide teachers’ union leader supported application. A spokesperson from the state Department of Education says Commissioner Gist will officially submit the proposal tomorrow morning.

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