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Education Department to announce Race to the Top winners

By Sally Holland, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Education Department has $3.4 billion in its Race to the Top competition
  • Second-round winners will be announced on Tuesday
  • Round two drew applications from 35 states and the District of Columbia
  • That was whittled down to 19 finalists a few months ago

Washington (CNN) -- The U. S. Education Department is set to announce Tuesday the winners in the second round of its Race to the Top competition, which grants a portion of $3.4 billion to states that have provided plans to put their education systems in line with the department's school reform goals.

Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia turned in applications for the second round. That number was whittled down to 19 finalists a few months ago.

The 19 finalists then sent representatives to Washington to make their case in front of a group of peer reviewers and education department officials over the summer.

The applications for Race to the Top are ranked based on four main criteria that drive school reforms: turning around low performing schools, adopting college and career-ready standards, having effective teachers and principals, and using data systems to support student achievement.

Several states that turned in applications for the first go-around, did not reapply for the second phase.

In April, Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett issued a statement after the state teachers union refused a meeting on the state's Race to the Top application.

"Without support from the union that represents more than 90 percent of Indiana's school districts, our application will not be competitively positioned," said a press release quoting Bennett. Indiana did not apply for Phase 2.

For the union's part, Indiana State Teachers Association President Nathan Schnellenberger wrote, "I do not believe a single meeting in your office, with the media in attendance, can begin to produce the kind of work that needs to be accomplished to create a viable plan for funding in the program's second round."

The Kansas Board of Education recommended that the state not reapply after receiving feedback on its first-round application. Our of a possible 500 points, Kansas earned 329.6 points, ranking it 29th out of the 41 applicants.

Kansas Board of Education Chair Janet Waugh said, "Although the grant money would obviously be immensely helpful in achieving the goals we have set, the conditions are just not favorable for Kansas to reapply for the Race to the Top grant."

The entire Race to the Top fund totaled $4.35 billion at the beginning of the program last fall. In the first round, Tennessee received a grant of $500 million and Delaware was granted $100 million to be awarded over the next four years. Another $350 million went for the assessment competition, according to the Education Department.

That leaves over $3.4 billion in the fund to be granted on Tuesday.

In hopes of funding more grants for Phase 2, the Department of Education announced that they would be limiting the amount that any given state can receive. The limits are based on the student population of that state. So, large states like California, New York and Florida can receive as much as $700 million while smaller states like New Mexico, Hawaii and the District of Columbia are limited to $75 million.