Victory Laps in Delaware, Tennessee
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
Delaware and Tennessee officials rejoiced on Monday (March 29) after they were proclaimed winners in the first round of the Race to the Top, a federal program intended to revamp the nation's K-12 schools by handing out billions of dollars in grants.
More than 40 jurisdictions applied for a slice of $4.35 billion set aside in last year's economic stimulus law, and the fact that only two states were declared winners surprised many education experts, particularly since two other states — Florida and Louisiana — were considered front-runners.
Delaware will receive about $100 million and Tennessee will get about $500 million. The rest of the pot will be saved for later rounds of the grant competition, which asks states to change their education policies in ways sought by the Obama administration.
"I just get so tired of Tennessee always being considered 40-something-th in education," Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen said when he heard the good news on Monday, according to The Tennessean . "I intend to spend the rest of the day doing victory laps, doing high-fives."
In Delaware, one state legislator, Terry Schooley, "began shouting with joy" when she heard that her state had won, according to The News-Journal .
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Delaware and Tennessee's applications were strengthened by the fact that they had strong buy-in from almost all school districts, as well as teachers' unions — which were reluctant to support Race to the Top applications in many other states.
"All local unions in Delaware backed the state's bid, while 93% lent their support in Tennessee," The Wall Street Journal noted . "By comparison, Florida-which is otherwise engaged in one of the country's most sweeping school overhauls-had the backing of only 8% of its unions."
Duncan said that more states — likely between 10 and 15 — will be winners in the next round of the competition, according to The Christian Science Monitor . Until then, all eyes will be on Delaware and Tennessee.
Tennessee "will be under intense scrutiny as the rest of the country waits to see whether half a billion dollars can really pull a state from the bottom tier of school performance up to the top," The Tennessean wrote.