Race to the Top Could Be Expanded

 

As states rush to meet Tuesday's (Jan. 19) initial deadline to apply for their share of $4.35 billion in federal education money — known as Race to the Top funds — President Obama is seeking to expand the program by $1.35 billion.

The initiative, which entices states to enact far-reaching education reforms to qualify for part of the federal money, began as part of the $787 billion stimulus plan. But the proposed expansion, which President Obama will announce today in Virginia, "marks an early example of the administration moving to transform a one-time stimulus program into a more permanent part of an agency's budget," The Wall Street Journal reported .

The new funds, which will be included in an otherwise "barebones" federal budget proposal, would come in the form of competitive grants given directly to winning school districts, according to The Journal . That would differ from the first two rounds of Race to the Top, in which money will be given directly to state governments.

Even as the Obama administration is seeking to expand the initiative, however, states are rushing to meet today's initial deadline amid uneasiness over some of the program's rules. To be eligible for federal Race to the Top money, states must, among other things, allow more charter schools, submit plans to improve their worst-performing schools and tie teacher evaluations to student test scores.

New York's Legislature on Monday (Jan. 18) rejected the education overhaul pushed by Gov. David Paterson (D), refusing the governor's aggressive plan to expand charter schools in the state, The New York Times reported . Debate will continue in Albany today.

But New York is not the only place where opposition to Race to the Top has become clear, The Times noted in a separate piece .

"Thousands of school districts in California, Ohio and other states have declined to participate, and teachers' unions in Michigan, Minnesota and Florida have recommended that their local units not sign on to their states' applications," The Times said.

"Several rural states, including Montana, have said they will not apply, at least for now, because of the emphasis on charter schools, which would draw resources from small country schools. And Gov. Rick Perry (R) of Texas said last week that his state would not compete for the $700 million that the biggest states are eligible to win."   

 
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