Race to Top Winners Could Get More Time to Finish Up
The U.S. Department of Education will consider, on a case-by-case basis, granting the original 12 Race to the Top winners an extra year to finish their work.
Next school year was set to be the fourth and last year for the Race to the Top program, the $4 billion education redesign competition for states financed under the economic-stimulus package passed by Congress in 2009. But delays have plagued many winning states as they seek to make good on their promises, and states have been slow to spend their money.
More than three years into the grants, the dozen winners— 11 states and the District of Columbia—have used less than half their money, Education Department records show.
The department will consider "no-cost extensions"—meaning states won't get any additional money to finish their plans, just extra time—between now and January.
Federal officials will consider the one-year extensions on a project-by-project basis and won't give states blanket approval to take more time on all parts of their plans. States would have until July 1, 2015, to spend their money (versus summer 2014).
No-cost extensions are customary with federal grants, and the Education Department had said that it would consider them at a later date—which has now arrived.
Department officials say they will not grant significant deadline extensions—such as delaying implementation of a state's new teacher-evaluation system—without a strong rationale.
"We are still trying to hold them accountable to their commitments," Ann Whalen, who oversees Race to the Top for the department, said of the grant winners. "But we don't want them sitting on the money either."
Recent reports by the department show states are struggling, in particular, with upgrading and building new data systems and implementing teacher-evaluation systems.
But the most pronounced reason states need more time, Ms. Whalen said, is that "comprehensive reform is difficult work." The extension policy, she said, "gives them more time."
Even with a fifth possible year for states to finish their work, one firm deadline remains: Any unspent money reverts to the Treasury on Oct. 1, 2015.
Vol. 32, Issue 26, Page 23