by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama recently defended Race to the Top, a 4-billion-dollar plan that aims at reforms from kindergarten to 12th grade, calling it the single most important initiative the administration has taken to date.
Proponents call the plan a much-needed solution to a patchwork system in which some public schools are top notch while others trail far behind.
Critics, however, say the ambitious plan grants too much power to the federal government and deprives states of the ability to enact local policies more in tune with students' needs.
Obama said the states, educators and reformers, for the most part, have responded with great enthusiasm to this promise of excellence.
"But I know there's also been some controversy about Race to the Top. Part of it, I believe, reflects a general resistance to change," Obama said in a recent speech. "We get comfortable with the status quo even when the status quo isn't good. We make excuses for why things have to be the way they are. And when you try to shake things up, some people aren't happy."
Some experts said the government had no choice but to take action now as some schools are so bad.
"Schools are so bad in some places, especially inner city schools, that somebody had to do something," said Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former White House and congressional advisor.
Critics said that while some schools do need to be revamped, the solution lies at the state rather than the federal level.
"The people in Washington are furthest away from the students and the classroom so they are going to be the least effective in meeting student needs," Lindsey Burke, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation, said.