President Calls to Expand "Race to the Top"

ABC News’ Yunji de Nies and Mary Bruce Report:

President Barack Obama announce plans today to expand the “Race To The Top,” the grant competition for education reform, requesting $1.35 billion in his FY-2011 budget to fund the program.

“Offering our children an outstanding education is one of our most fundamental -- perhaps our most fundamental obligation as a country. And whether we meet that obligation not only reflects who we are as Americans, it will shape our future as a nation. Countries that out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow, and I refuse to let that happen on my watch,” he said.

The President acknowledged that the new funding would not reform education overnight, but said it would help to raise education standards across the country. Race to the Top began as a $4.35 billion is a national competition among the states, to inspire education reform, funded through the Recovery Act.

Currently, to qualify for the money, states must meet four “assurances”: -designing and adopting internationally benchmarks and standards -recruiting, developing, rewarding and retaining effective teachers and principals -build data systems that measure students’ success -providing support for turning around low performing schools, in part by expanding the number of charter schools.

The President wants the expand the competition to the district level, to allowing them to compete, even if their states do not meet the competition’s parameters. Competition at the district level would likely require a new scoring system and criteria.

“This support will not only reaffirm our commitment to states engaged in serious reform, it will also expand the Race to the Top competition to include local school districts that are also committed to change,” Mr. Obama said.

The President made the announcement at the Graham Road Elementary in Falls Church, VA. The $1.35 billion dollar commitment is for the FY2011 budget, but the administration wants to continue the competition indefinitely.

“We certainly want to support this type of competition and this level of reform until we felt like, and others felt like, we had made significant progress across the country,” a senior administration official said. “There’s no definite end date or cut off, but we certainly see this as a key reform and a key investment that we would want to continue funding and that’s why it’s a permanent part of our FY-2011 budget.”

The Department of Education will begin awarding the first round of funding this month. States that do not qualify or win grants in this first round will be able to apply again in a second round later this year.

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