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19 Finalists Vie for Federal Funds
posted by: Steph | July 28, 2010, 07:42 PM   

Finalists in the second round of the Race to the Top (RTTT) program are preparing to present their cases to Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the RTTT peer reviewers who will adjust each state’s scores based on their presentations. Some speculate that the presentations during the first weeks of August won’t substantially alter the scores, because scores changed little after interviews in RTTT’s first round.

According to Duncan, peer reviewers will pay careful attention to the practicality, leadership, and sustainability of each state's plan. Michael Petrilli, an education analyst for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, speculates that Pennsylvania is a very strong candidate, while New Jersey is less likely to gain funds.

As many as 10 to 15 winners could be named, but if large states requesting substantial funds get all they’re asking for 10 winners are unlikely. California alone is asking for just under $700 million. That’s more than 20% of the $3.4 billion available. If California and New York are awarded full grants, the remaining funds could only go to a few other states.

The federal scoring rubric gives significant points to states that promote or at least do not prohibit charter schools as a method of reform; however, even this doesn’t seem to be a lynchpin in the competition. States supportive of charters such as Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, and New York made the cut, but so did a number of states not as friendly to the charter movement including Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, and even Maryland. Maryland “was shown to have the worst charter school law in the country” according to rankings by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. p

The reforms spurred by the RTTT program should not be one-time fixes but only part of a long-term solution to education reform in America, according to Duncan. Some worry that RTTT could kill rather than encourage education reform. Petrilli explained, “If you give money to states that have not really embraced reform, then you can kiss reform goodbye.” The competitive funding of RTTT will not replace formula-based funding already provided by the federal government. When discussing these two sources of funding, Duncan said, “We absolutely need both.”

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