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Education Funding

Handicappers Busy on New Race to Top

By Michele McNeil — September 20, 2011 1 min read

When the scores came in for last year’s $3.4 billion first round of the Race to the Top, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was reportedly dismayed that Colorado and Louisiana had been left out of the winners’ circle.

Now, with a $200 million round, Mr. Duncan has a chance to make it up to those two states.

Proposed rules released Sept. 7, which are open for public comment until Oct. 12, spell out how the nine finalists can get a piece of that smaller Race to the Top jackpot. And unlike the first two rounds of the competition, there will be no outside judges—this time, it’s up to the Education Department to pick.

That means there are clear favorites, and not-so-favorites. The runners-up last time were Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

In addition to Colorado and Louisiana, Illinois could join the favorites category. After all, Mr. Duncan praised his home state in May for doing “something truly remarkable” after the legislature passed a sweeping bill altering how the state’s teachers are hired, evaluated, and granted tenure.

Now for the underdogs. The department pretty much wrote South Carolina out of the competition—not that Superintendent of Education Mick Zais was going to apply, anyway. To qualify for the money, states must have met the maintenance-of-effort requirements of the Education Jobs Fund program created by Congress last year, which requires states to keep their own funding for K-12 and higher education at certain levels. South Carolina couldn’t meet that requirement and did not end up with any education jobs money.

A second eligibility requirement could affect California. States must satisfy the data-systems requirements that were part of the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, the $40 billion-plus pot of money that shores up state budgets from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. That includes having a system that allows officials to link individual student data to individual teachers. In August, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed $2.1 million in federal funding for a data system for tracking teacher characteristics.

Note to the hopefuls: If states don’t apply, that means more money for everyone else.

A version of this article appeared in the September 21, 2011 edition of Education Week as Handicappers Busy on New Race to Top

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