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Education Funding

Race to Top Early Learning: Tales of Woe for 3 States

By Michele McNeil — December 16, 2011 1 min read
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The nine winners of the Race to the Top early learning contest are surely rejoicing at their good fortune. But three states (including one winner!) may be especially bummed out about the results.


New Mexico: The state narrowly missed winning, at 7.6 points behind 9th-place finisher and winner California. The merits of New Mexico’s proposal aside, this state had a wild swing in scores among the five judges. On a 280-point scale, the difference between the highest-scoring judge and the lowest-scoring judge was a whopping 90 points! That was clearly enough to kick the state out of the winners’ circle. The effect of scoring outliers was also an issue in last year’s $4 billion Race to the Top. (To see score breakdowns by judge, click on the spreadsheet called “State Data Workbook” on this Education Department web page.)

Colorado: The state, which was a favorite in last year’s original Race to the Top, lost again. The New America Foundation had pegged it as a frontrunner this time, too.

California: This was the biggest loser among the winners. It wanted nearly $100 million (the cap the U.S. Department of Education set), but with only $500 million available and a 9th place finish, only $52 million was left for them. That’s not a lot of money for a state with more than 6 million students. It’s interesting that the Education Department chose not to shave a little off the other states’ winnings to give California a bit more. But it’s also interesting that the department gave them anything, and didn’t use their $52 million to give everyone else a little more. Perhaps Education Secretary Arne Duncan wanted to send a little love California’s way, especially after snatching back a data systems grant and ruling their effort to apply for a Race to the Top consolation prize inadequate. What’s more, by giving California a Race to the Top grant, Duncan was able to make the claim—as he did during the White House announcement Friday—that Race to the Top money now reaches 60 percent of the nation’s students and two-thirds of low-income students. Those figures would have been far less impressive had California not won.