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Education Funding

Unanswered Race to the Top Questions

By Michele McNeil — July 27, 2009 1 min read

Friday’s unveiling of the criteria for the Race to the Top awards answered a lot of questions about how the U.S. Department of Education is going to dole out $4 billion in competitive grants.

But a lot of questions remain, at least as far as we’re concerned:

1. Given that the applications require signatures from the governor and the chief and the state board of education president, what if one is particularly obstinate and won’t sign on? Not all chiefs and governors have gotten along, after all. South Carolina would be a top contender for testing this rule.

2. Who is the department going to find to judge these things? They want “peers” who are education experts in their fields, but so many of these folks work in or for states. University professors might be key here.

3. The list of people and entities that the department wants to see support from, regarding a state’s application, is lengthy and exhaustive. From every participating local school district to teachers’ unions to charter school organizers to the state attorney general (when state laws are being presented as evidence of having a policy in place.) You can find the list on page 36 of the proposed rules. Does the department really want hundreds of letters and/or signatures?

4. Given the department’s focus on turning around large numbers of low-performing schools, which are concentrated in urban areas, do states with mostly rural populations have a shot at this money? And in states with big urban centers that win the money, will rural schools lose out?

What questions do you have about Race to the Top?

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