“Race to the Top” voting leaves a money trail
March 11, 2010
• Group tracks who got what from lobbyists
• Sharp differences in contributions
In January, the California Legislature passed a school reform bill in an effort to qualify California for federal “Race to the Top” funds. The bill had widespread and bi-partisan support.
Now an independent group says it has linked political donations to how lawmakers voted. The report is from MAPlight.org, a Berkeley-based nonprofit, nonpartisan group that says it parses public databases to illuminate “the connection between campaign donations and legislative votes.”
The California Teachers Association (CTA) was a leading opponent of the bill and gave an average of $17,800 to each Senator who voted against it, during the 2006 and 2008 election cycles, says MAPlight. This amount is 3.3 times as much as the average $5,344 that CTA gave to each Senator who voted in favor of the bill.
For the Assembly floor vote, CTA gave an average of $13,553 to each legislator voting against the bill, during the 2008 election cycle. This is 2.4 times as much as the $5,600 CTA gave, on average, to legislators voting “yes,” according to MAPlight.
Many Democrats voted with Republicans to support the bill. The seven Senate Democrats who voted “no” received 114 percent more from CTA than the 14 Senate Democrats who voted “yes.” The 17 Assembly Democrats who voted “no” received 34 percent more from CTA than the 25 Assembly Democrats who voted “yes.” All Republicans in both the House and Senate supported the bill, the MAPlight report says.
Race to the Top (RTTT) is a competitive grant for billions of federal stimulus dollars. SBX5 1 was specifically intended to help California meet the criteria for RTTT, covering the four education policy reform areas: "standards and assessments, data systems to support instruction, great teachers and leaders, and turning around the lowest-achieving schools."
On Jan. 18, after SBX5 1 and a companion bill passed and were signed into law, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger submitted California's RTTT application.
Thomas Carroll, president of the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, noted that while California is among several states that passed legislation to help qualify, the state "didn't do enough." The U.S. Department of Education announced last week that California is not among the states that are finalists for the first phase of RTTT. The Governor pledged to keep pushing for reforms necessary to make California's application for RTTT competitive.
According to legislative committee bill analyses, organizations that opposed SBX5 1 include the Association of California School Administrators, California Federation of Teachers, California Labor Federation, California Nurses Association, California School Boards Association, California School Employees Association, California Teachers Association, and Californians Together.
Among those, CTA has an especially powerful voice: it is the second-highest contributor to California legislators voting on the bill, giving more money between 2003 and 2008 than any corporation and more than every organization except the California Medical Association, says MAPlight.
In its position paper on RTTT, CTA argues against many of the RTTT criteria.
Campaign contributions data provided by the National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP), and includes state Senate and Assembly campaign contributions from the California Teachers Association. Date range of contributions: Senators include 2006 and 2008 election cycle contributions (Jan. 1, 2005-Dec. 31, 2008) coded by NIMSP as of Jan. 21, 2010; Assembly totals only include the 2008 election cycle (Jan. 1, 2007-Dec. 31, 2008). Votes and bill analyses for SBX5 1 are recorded in the Office of Legislative Counsel's LegInfo database.
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