Maine fails to make cut for $3 billion federal education fund

Posted July 28, 2010, at 10:28 a.m.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Tuesday that 18 states and the District of Columbia are the finalists for more than $3 billion available in the second round of funding in the Race to the Top program. Maine, which had requested $75 million in its application, was not among them.

The $75 million would have been spent over four years, and would have gone, the state Department of Education announced in June, “for efforts to improve data systems, improve teaching and learning, turn around low achieving schools, and further improve the state’s already-strong standards and assessments.”

Recently, the state won a federal grant worth $7.3 million to create system that would examine students’ progress from early childhood until they enter the workforce.

According to the federal Department of Education, 35 states and the District of Columbia applied for the second round of Race to the Top. The 19 finalists are Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

“Peer reviewers identified these 19 finalists as having the boldest plans, but every state that applied will benefit from this process of collaboratively creating a comprehensive education reform agenda,” Duncan said. “Much of the federal dollars we distribute though other channels can support their plan to raise standards, improve teaching, use data more effectively to support student learning, and turn around underperforming schools.”

Race to the Top is a federal education reform, with $4.35 billion available to support states in their comprehensive reforms. In the first round of competition supporting state-based reforms, Delaware and Tennessee won grants based on their comprehensive plans to reform their schools and the statewide support for those plans. Almost $3.4 billion remains to award grants to winners in the second round.

Stephen Bowen, director of the Center for Education Excellence at the Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) said, “We’ll know more about what went wrong once we have had a chance to look over the scoring data, but my guess is that some combination of an uneven application, an unremarkable record of reform and widespread opposition from the teachers’ unions did us in.”

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