With phase one of the U.S. Department of Education’s (U.S. DOE) Race to the Top program underway, earmarking $100 million for Delaware and $500 million for Tennessee, other states now have their eyes on the $3.4 billion still left in the program.
U.S. DOE expects to make awards ranging from $20 million to $700 million in phase two of Race to the Top, and Florida and Arizona are among those states working to meet the June 1, 2010, deadline. Florida Governor Charlie Crist announced his Race to the Top working group to vet Florida’s application. The group includes Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvahlo, Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Mark Wilson, Florida Education Association’s Andy Ford, Florida Disabilities Council Executive Director Debra Dowds, and eight other people.
The stakes are high in education’s race to the top, and U.S. DOE says it’s looking for bold, innovative education reform plans that are comprehensive and collaborative.
“We set a very high bar for the first phase," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (pictured above). “With $3.4 billion still available, we're providing plenty of opportunity for all other states to develop plans and aggressively pursue reform."
The U.S. DOE made one change to the rules for phase two, requiring states’ budgets to be within the ranges suggested in the original notice. Officials say that state applications will not be considered if budget requests exceed the maximum range, and that states should develop a budget that is consistent with its plans. DOE has outlined five budget categories:
Category 1—$350 million-$700 million:
California, Texas, New York and Florida.
Category 2—$200 million-$400 million:
Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina and New Jersey.
Category 3—$150 million-$250 million:
Virginia, Arizona, Indiana, Washington, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Missouri, Maryland and Wisconsin.
Category 4—$60 million-$175 million:
Minnesota, Colorado, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Puerto Rico, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Oregon, Connecticut, Utah, Mississippi, Iowa, Arkansas, Kansas and Nevada.
Category 5—$20 million-$75 million:
New Mexico, Nebraska, Idaho, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Maine, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming and the District of Columbia.
The U.S. DOE held a technical assistance workshop for potential phase two applicants in Minneapolis, Minnesota in late April. States could also participate by phone. Representatives from Delaware and Tennessee discussed their plans and laws and their approaches to building a statewide collaboration. Education officials also discussed Race to the Top selection criteria, requirements, and priorities, and answered technical questions about the program.
Florida, which had asked for $1 billion during phase one, was widely considered a leading contender but ultimately finished in fourth place.
“I remain encouraged and excited about the opportunities still ahead of us and I am supremely thankful for the support from our parents, business leaders, legislators, and other education stakeholders who made our initial effort so formidable,” said Florida Education Commissioner Eric Smith.
The $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund is an unprecedented federal investment in reform. The program includes $4 billion for statewide grants and $350 million to support states working together to improve the quality of their assessments. Race to the Top is designed to reward states that are leading the way in reform across four key areas:
1. Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace;
2. Building data systems that measure student growth and success and inform teachers and principals how to improve instruction;
3. Recruiting, developing, rewarding and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
4. Turning around their lowest-performing schools.
For more information on the Race to the Top program, visit http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop.