Race to the Top winners to be announced today


The winners of the first round of the federal Race to the Top grant competition will be announced at 1pm today, and as a number of folks in the education reform community have observed, the list of winners will tell us a great deal about how serious the Obama Administration is about pushing for real reform in the nation’s schools.

Simply put, Arne Duncan’s Department of Education could go one of two ways, really. It could choose two or three states as winners and send the signal that states have to be extraordinarily committed to reform in order to win federal funding, or it could distribute lesser sums to a number of less committed states, and thus send the signal that the Department’s approach will be to reward less ambitious reform in more states.

The third way to go, of course, would be to simply send the money where politics dictates it should go, and if Ohio ends up a winner, we’ll know that is why.

As for me, I’m in Andy Smarick’s corner on this, hoping for no more than two states to win.  Setting so high a bar, as Secretary Duncan has indicated he plans to do, would send a powerful message that this administration is serious about states being aggressive about reform.

The announcement of the RTT winners is coming at an auspicious time. The Race to the Top legislation proposed by Commissioner Gendron is making its way through the legislature, having already been approved by the Senate.  Rep. Casavant’s charter schools amendment to LD 1801 may be taken up in the House, and if it passes there, the fate of charter schools in Maine will be right back where it was a year ago – in the Senate. (It was defeated there last year when five Senate Republicans joined the Democrat majority in the Senate to kill the charter school bill.)

Stay tuned for news from Washington, as we’ll learn very soon whether we can count on the Obama administration to be a partner in our push for real school reform.

Let’s hope they are staying tuned in Augusta as well…