Obama To Announce “Race To The Top” Expansion

Jan 19, 2010 12:01am

ABC News’ Mary Bruce Reports:

President Obama will announce plans today to continue and expand the “Race To The Top” stimulus grant competition for education reform, requesting $1.35 billion in his FY-2011 budget to fund the program.

“We want to challenge everyone – parents, teachers, school administrators – to raise standards, by having the best teachers and principals, by tying student achievement to assessments of teachers, by making sure that there's a focus on low-performing schools, by making sure our students are prepared for success in a competitive 21st century economy and workplace,” President Obama said in a statement.

While the President’s announcement – to be made at the Graham Road Elementary in Falls Church, VA – will specifically relate to the FY-2011 budget, the administration wants to continue the competition indefinitely.

“We certainly want to support this type of competition and this level of reform until we felt like, and others felt like, we had made significant progress across the country,” a senior administration official said. “There’s no definite end date or cut off, but we certainly see this as a key reform and a key investment that we would want to continue funding and that’s why it’s a permanent part of our FY-2011 budget.”

The administration also envisions expanding the competition to the district level. “There are great benefits to opening ‘Race To The Top’ to school districts who are willing to take on the blueprint of reform and the changes needed in district-level policy to better advance some of those reform priorities,” according to a senior administration official. Competition at the district level would likely require a new scoring system and criteria.

Obama’s announcement comes on the same day as the deadline for states to apply for the first of two rounds to compete in the $4.35 billion “Race To The Top,” funded by the Recovery Act. 

“This competition has generated an overwhelming response from over 30 states in just the first round of funding. By continuing, we have an opportunity to create incentives for far-reaching improvement in our nation's schools,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

So far 11 states have moved to change their laws or policies to better compete, including Massachusetts, Tennessee and California (to participate states must show they are improving teacher instruction and assessments, adopting common academic standards, overhauling failing schools, and using data systems to inform decisions). In New York, lawmakers met yesterday for a special session to debate legislation that could better the state’s position to compete.

Other states have opted not to enter the competition at all. In Texas, for example, Governor Rick Perry pulled out their submission last week saying he did not want to hand over the state’s education system to “unelected bureaucrats and special-interest groups” in Washington.

– Mary Bruce

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