States Racing for Education Money


States are facing a Jan. 19 deadline to apply for their share of $4.35 billion in federal education grants. Some — such as Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and Tennessee — are cutting it awfully close.

The grants, known as Race to the Top funds, are part of the federal stimulus plan and will be awarded to certain states that change their policies to advance the Obama administration's education goals. Interested states must allow more charter schools, submit plans to improve their worst-performing schools and tie teacher evaluations to student test scores, among other changes.

But the states' assignment, as The New York Times outlined in a story last month , is complex — especially given that lawmakers in many states are just now getting back to business — and some states are pushing the deadline to the last minute.

New York Gov. David Paterson (D) last week urged lawmakers to approve changes that would make the Empire State eligible for up to $700 million in federal education money. But the Legislature now seems unlikely to reach a deal until next Tuesday (Jan. 19) — the very day the state's application is due, Elizabeth Benjamin reported for the New York Daily News . New York officials have inquired about an extension, Benjamin reported, "but were told in no uncertain terms by the Obama administration that would not be possible."

The head of the Michigan Board of Education also said that the state's application for up to $400 million in grant money could be a last-minute affair.

Kathleen Straus, the board's president, "said she's not willing to sign the application, as required by federal rules, until she's had a chance to read the entire document," which is being prepared by the state Department of Education, The Detroit News reported . "She was told it likely won't be ready until Sunday, two days before (the deadline)."

In other states, including Kentucky and Tennessee , lawmakers who recently returned to work are rushing to finalize reforms that would put their states in contention for Race to the Top money.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last week signed legislation making the nation's most populous state eligible for the federal money. But Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who is running for reelection, will announce today (Jan. 13) that the Lone Star State isn't interested in competing for up to $700 million in Race to the Top grants — in part because of Perry's dissatisfaction with the program's rules, The Austin American-Statesman reported   


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