The U.S. Department of Education announced today that nine finalist states that did not win grants in the first two rounds of Race to the Top (RTT) will be eligible to compete for $200 million in additional funds this year. Applications will be available in the early fall.
The nine states, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and South Carolina, can seek grants ranging from $10 million to $50 million, depending on state size and the final number of grants. Given that these grants are smaller than the ones originally applied for, states will work with the U.S. Department of Education to update their RTT plans to reflect a more limited scope of work.
"Every state that applied for Race to the Top funds now has a blueprint for raising educational quality across America," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "These funds will encourage states to continue their courageous work to challenge the status quo and build on the momentum for education reform happening in our classrooms, schools and communities."
The Department chose to make the $200 million available in a competition among Race to the Top finalists in order to support states that have demonstrated capacity and commitment around bold reform plans that address the Obama Administration's four core reforms: raising academic standards, building cradle to career data systems, investing in great teachers and leaders, and turning around persistently low-performing schools.
Race to the Top applications were scored on a 500-point scale across a broad set of criteria. While the 12 original winners of RTT scored 440 or above all of the finalists scored above 412. The non-finalists scored more than 20 points lower.
"In phase 2, we had many more competitive applications than we had funds to award," said Duncan. "We're committed to working with the states that are the most serious about education reform."
In the fiscal year 2011 appropriations bill passed in April, Congress provided the U.S. Department of Education with $700 million for the Race to the Top initiative, including an authorization to fund an early learning competition within Race to the Top. $500 million of these funds will support the new Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, announced by Secretary Duncan and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius earlier today.
In his remarks today, Duncan thanked Congress for supporting Race to the Top saying, "We are deeply grateful to Congress for supporting these programs. Congress understands the value of investing in education reform, particularly early learning, even in these economic times."
The Obama Administration has also proposed to continue Race to the Top in fiscal year 2012 and is seeking authority to develop a district-level competition.