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.

Last updated August 26, 2010