Billions of dollars in federal education reform grants are up for grabs in the Race to the Top. Wednesday, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that 18 states and the District of Columbia are finalists in the competition’s second round. Finalists such as California convinced various school district to cooperate with the grant application. Losers like Nevada had politicians blaming each other and using the occasion to blast big government.
Race to the Top finalists
Delaware and Tennessee received $100 million and $300 million, respectively, for winning the first round of Race to the Top in March. In the second phase, the Department of Education will hand out $3.4 billion for education reform. Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina advance in the second round. Race to the Top finalists will send teams to Washington in August for the competition’s interview phase. In September winners will be announced.
Education reform: ‘a quiet revolution’
Duncan called the program part of “a quiet revolution” in education reform in a speech to the National Press Club in Washington, where he announced the Race to the Top finalists. Supporters of the competition say its most profound effect is motivating states to start taking action on controversial reforms before having to find money for them in their budgets. The Department of Education Reform said 23 states have passed education reform laws regarding things like charter schools and teacher evaluations to improve their chances of winning funds since Race to the Top was announced.
California cooperation helps it advance
After finishing 27th out of 40 in the first round, California made the cut. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that 300 school districts and county offices across the state endorsed the reforms outlined in its Race to the Top application. Superintendents from seven school districts wrote the application, which documented what the state has already done for education reform, including measuring student performance and supporting and evaluating teachers and principals.
Nevada politicians point the blame fingers
A consultant was paid $40,000 to write Nevada’s failing Race to the Top application. Fox News Las Vegas reported that an frenzy of finger-pointing ensued upon Nevada’s failure to reach the finals. Republican Governor Jim Gibbons was accused of a “lack of leadership” by Democratic Senator Harry Reid. Gibbons fired back, accusing Reid of never “lifting a finger” to help Nevada succeed. Even though she wants less federal involvement in schools and has called for eliminating the Department of Education, right wing candidate for Senator Sharon Angle piled on Reid after Nevada was left out in the cold.
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