California Misses Out On First Round of Race to the Top

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By Linda Galliher

The U.S. Department of Education announced the list of 16 finalists for the first round of its Race to the Top funds, a list that did not include California. The announcement came as a great disappointment, especially after the Legislature performed “legislative backflips” in the lead up to the January application deadline, passing education reform laws to make the state more competitive for as much as $700 million in federal funds.

States that made the first cut include New York, Florida, Massachusetts and Colorado, as well as the District of Columbia. States were chosen based on willingness to improve failing schools using tools such as a data collection, tougher testing standards and teacher training. It is expected that less than half a dozen of the finalists will go on to receive funding in the first round.

With another round of funding coming up in the summer, California will have a second shot at the Race to the Top money. In order to have a chance this next time, the state will have to demonstrate its ability to improve failing schools through additional reforms even before receiving funding. U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan hopes this strategy to lure states into the Race to the Top will result in improved education systems even in states that do not receive federal funds.

Missing out on the first round of grant funding is disappointing but is not a closed door. We now have more time, and the challenge, to bring additional reforms to the table for round two. The Bay Area Council looks forward to working with all stakeholders, and our lawmakers in Sacramento, to find the path that will allow us to usher in some much-needed federal dollars and a new era for education in California.

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