Want President Obama to speak at your high school? Turns out, it might be pretty easy.
With the deadline looming, the White House is reportedly facing a shortage of applications for it’s “Race to the Top Commencement Challenge.” The challenge allows schools to highlight how they’ve prepared their students for college, with the most qualified school winning a commencement speech from Obama himself. However, even with an extension of the deadline, the number of applications is falling drastically short.
According to CBS News:
The competition was extended from the February 25 deadline until Friday, March 11 after few schools met the original application deadline. CBS News has learned a White House Communications Office internal memo dated February 22 noted “a major issue with the Commencement Challenge.”
“As of yesterday we had received 14 applications and the deadline is Friday,” the memo said. The memo also urged recipients to, “please keep the application number close hold.”
A followup memo from February 28 revised the number upwards to 68 applications. This is still drastically shy of the over 1000 applications that the White House claimed to have received for the same challenge last year.
The memos give a number of recomendations on how to increase the number including getting staffers to ask “friendly congressional, gubernatorial and mayoral offices”. That almost sounds like they’re asking them to beg.
Most people familiar with the process have refused to comment on the number of applications, with many saying that they wouldn’t report numbers until after the deadline. Still, one or two administration officials have stepped up in defense of the White House.
Education Department press aide Elizabeth Utrup said the deadline was extended “to provide an ample amount of time to reach out to schools from across the country.” Utrup added, “Like last year, we anticipate the overwhelming majority will be submitted near the close of the Challenge.”
Something like that would be a little more plausible if it wasn’t already past the first deadline. Granted the low number was from more then a week ago, but do you really think the type of school that has been preparing kids for college the way the White House wants would really procrastinate this much on an application like this?
Of course there’s also the other possibility, that most schools are so embarrassed by how they prepare their kids for college that they haven’t bothered trying to enter. Or maybe just no one wants Obama this year.