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Obama to announce $4.35 billion in stimulus for schools

  • Story Highlights
  • $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund is largest federal investment in school reform
  • To get their share, states will need to address four areas outlined by government
  • Race to the Top money will be given out in two phases
  • President Obama to make formal announcement Friday
By Sally Holland
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Obama plans to announce the next phase of education funding Friday as one round of stimulus money filters through state governments and into school districts.

The $4.35 billion Race to the Top Fund is the largest federal investment in school reform in the United States, according to the Department of Education.

It will be allocated based on plans by states to address four basic areas:

• Adoption of internationally benchmarked standards.
• Recruiting and retaining quality teachers and principals.
• Building data systems to measure student success.
• Informing teachers on how to improve their practices and turn around low-performing schools.

In a letter to Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell in June, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said states will be judged on how well they have managed stimulus money they have already received.

"Discretionary award applications, including for Race to the Top funds, will be available in the coming months, and will ask, among other things, to what extent has a state increased/decreased its education budget (as a percentage of revenue) and what has a state done with the dollars it has received to date," Duncan wrote.

The letter warns that a state's competitive position to receive the funds may be affected depending on how it meets standards.

"We are working like heck to put together an application that shows the state's commitment," said Donna Cooper, Rendell's policy secretary.

The Race to the Top money will be given out in two phases: Applications sent in by later this year will be awarded in early 2010 and those in next spring will be awarded in September 2010, officials plan to announce Friday.

Cooper described the fund as "the catalyst in terms of focusing local school districts in the state on the changes that are necessary to turn around the schools that teach the kids who have the greatest challenges in life."

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