Nine out of Ten RttT Winners are Blue States

By 08/26/2010

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At the end of round one of the RttT contest, it appeared as if politics was irrelevant.  The focus was on which states had a good reform strategy.  Only two winners were identified.  One Red State (Tennessee)–that had voted for John McCain– and one Blue State (Delaware)–that had voted for Barack Obama—shared the honors.

Round two tells a different story.  Congratulations must be given to the state of Georgia, for it was the only Red State winner.  The other 9 winners were all colored blue on election night back in November 2008.

In a brilliant—and soon-to-be published–article in the American Political Science Review, University of Chicago political scientists William Howell and Christopher Berry show conclusively that presidents hand out money to states loyal to their party more often than otherwise, all other things being equal.  The study is based on presidents past, not on the current administration, but RttT suggests the Obama Administration is no different from its predecessors.

Of course, it will be explained that rules were followed, nonpartisan experts rated the submissions, and the White House exercised no control whatsoever over the outcome.  But politics can affect the rules that are constructed and the experts that are chosen.  When the numbers result in a Blue State: Red State ratio of 9:1, one suspects, with even more than 90 percent confidence, that RttT is as much or more a partisan boondoggle as an education reform strategy.

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  • […] Harvard’s Paul Peterson says the process is suspect, bringing attention to the fact that 9 of the 10 winners were Blue States (Democrat-leaning) and concluding that “RttT is as much or more a partisan boondoggle as an […]

  • The truth from a Red State says:

    Partisan boondoggle?

    Why must nearly everything today be a partisan conspiracy?

    Is a fabricated conspiracy, propped up by clever, diabolical ruses like a nonpartisan review process more plausible than the plain suggestion that those 9 states were simply better candidates?

    As a red RttT finalist state, I have no conspiracies to excuse my state’s dismal performance (Arizona); our first application was widely panned and laughed at by even our state’s journalists, legislators, and citizens.

    Have you considered that blue states have state legislatures that are more left-leaning and/or more likely to fund educational endeavors? Like Minnesota, where I graduated from. Or our neighbor Wisconsin. Minnesota spares little expense on a state level, and even county by county, continue to vote property tax hikes to fund education. As a result, we achieved things like the highest average ACT/SAT score out of all 50 states one year (and consistently rank in the top 10 all other years).

    Now having an excellent education and obtaining an excellent career path in Mesa, Arizona and working for the government, I see that while the municipality itself props education, the state legislature consistently cuts it. Research Prop 302, it is an attempt by the Arizona legislature to redirect funds that voters specifically set aside for early education (in 2006, a voter initiative enacted an $.80/per pack tax on cigarettes, 90% of which was mandated to early childhood education and 10% to administrative costs relating to education). Is this evidence of a partisan liberal boondoggle? Was this part of the blue state conspiracy to withhold funding from a red state? Or was this something a redstate wholly did to ourselves?

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