The federal Race to the Top program would be renewed for another year under a spending bill approved today by the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that deals with education spending—but wouldn't receive nearly as much money as President Barack Obama has sought.
Under the measure, which passed by voice vote with Republicans audibly voting "no," the Obama administration's signature education reform initiative would get $675 million in fiscal 2011 for another round of grants. That's a lot less than the $1.35 billion the administration asked for, and even less than the $800 million provided by a measure approved earlier this month by the Senate subcommittee's House counterpart.
Still, it looks like the Race to the Top competition, which received $4.35 billion under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, may be on track to stick around for another year. That could be good news for states thatofficially didn't make the list of finalists today in the second round of the grant competition.
Also under the Senate language, districts would be allowed, for the first time, to compete alongside states for
Education Secretary Arne Duncan picked 19 finalists, including Hawaii and Arizona as surprise picks, to compete in the interview portion of the Race to the Top Round Two competition. That means each state will assemble a group of five people to come to Washington the week of August 9 to make their final, last-ditch pitches for a portion of the $3.4 billion in federal money still left in the pot.
The finalists, which beat out 17 other states that applied in the second round, are: Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina. These finalists all scored above 400 points on the 500-point grading scale. Arizona vaulted from a surprising 40th place finish in the
This program provides financial assistance for the planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools, and the dissemination of information on charter schools. Grants are available, on a competitive basis, to SEAs in states that have charter school laws; SEAs in turn make subgrants to developers of charter schools who have applied for a charter. If an eligible SEA elects not to participate or if its application for funding is not approved, the Department can make grants directly to charter school developers.
An eligible applicant that receives a grant or subgrant may use the funds only for post-award planning and design of the education program of a charter school. It may carry out such activities as the refinement of the desired education results, the refinement of the methods for measuring progress toward achieving those results, and the initial implementation of the charter school. Implementation may include informing the community about the charter school and acquiring necessary equipment, materials, and supplies. Other eligible operational costs that cannot be met by state and local sources also may be covered. A state may reserve up to 10 percent of its allocation to support eligible charter schools for dissemination activities.
The Public Charter Schools Program supports the planning, development, and initial implementation of charter schools. Charter schools provide enhanced parental choice and are exempt from many statutory and regulatory requirements. In exchange for increased flexibility, charter schools are held accountable for improving student academic achievement. The objective is to replace rules-based governance with performance-based accountability, thereby stimulating the creativity and commitment of teachers, parents, and citizens.
States--and specifically their State educational Agencies (SEAs)-- are eligible to compete for grants if they have a charter school law in place. If an eligible SEA does not participate, charter schools from the State may apply directly to the U.S. Department of Education. Grantees receive up to 3 years of assistance, of which the charter school may use not more than 18 months for planning and program design and not more than 2 years for the initial implementation of a charter school.
In awarding grants, the Department must give preference to States that have multiple chartering agencies (or an appeals process for prospective charter schools that initially fail to be approved by a single agency), that ensure accountability of public charter schools for reaching clear and measurable objectives, and that give public charter schools a high degree of autonomy over their budgets and expenditures.
In addition, States may reserve up to 10 percent of their grant for dissemination sub-grants to spread lessons learned form high-quality charter schools with a demonstrated history of success to other public schools, including other public charter schools, about how to create and sustain high-quality, accountable schools.