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California fails to receive federal Race to the Top grant money

President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan listen as a student speaks.
President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan listen as a student speaks.
U.S. Dept. of Education

In an announcement earlier today, the U.S. Department of Education announced fifteen state finalists and the District of Columbia received federal Race to the Top grant money: Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

California was not listed as a finalist.

Under Race to the Top guidelines, states not funded in the first round may apply again for the second round of funding on June 1, 2010.

A statement from Governor Schwarzenegger’s office read, “This decision by the Obama Administration demonstrates that we need to be more aggressive and bolder in reforming our education system. While the reforms we passed did move our state forward, they did not go far enough because other states were more competitive. I will continue to fight for additional education reforms to make California truly competitive for the billions of dollars our students desperately need – the people of California expect nothing less.”

But Amanda Farris, Education Policy Analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, said that it is surprising that New York and Kentucky were chosen as finalists. Earlier this year, New York refused to pass an education reform bill that would have expanded their charter school caps, and Kentucky does not even have a charter school law.

Although charter schools were not in the four main requirements to qualify for Race to the Top funds, Farris stated that Secretary Arne Duncan reiterated that states who do qualify will need to meet “a very, very high bar.” Farris stated that this lengthy list of finalists does not inspire much confidence.

Andy Smarick, a distinguished visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and blogger for EducationNext, stated after the announcement, “I was preparing to heap praise on the administration for doing as they had suggested – only shining a spotlight on the very best of the best. I expected a finalist list of 5 and was quietly hoping for 3. My worst-case scenario was 12. I never would have imagined 16.”

“By sending forward a number of states with such glaring deficiencies, the Department did not set a “very, very high bar,” Smarick stated.


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