Washington News

thenewstribune.com, June 2, 2010

Race to Top application in
Round 2: Washington meets deadline to seek $250 million in federal education reform funds

By VENICE BUHAIN; Staff writer,

OLYMPIA – With about 90 percent of districts signed on statewide, Washington joined 34 other states and the District of Columbia and met the deadline to apply for money in the second round of the federal Race to the Top competition.

At a news conference Tuesday at Nisqually Middle School, Gov. Chris Gregoire and state superintendent Randy Dorn announced that the state’s application for $250 million for education reform was being hand-delivered to the federal Department of Education.

Gregoire and Dorn sought statewide buy-in, and Gregoire said last month that support from the districts, school boards, teachers and principals was vital to the state’s application.

Although support was widespread, it was not unanimous. Statewide, 265 out of 295 school district superintendents signed on. About 171 of the 249, or 69 percent, of the local teachers unions signed on, and the statewide Washington Education Association signed a letter in support of the state’s application.

Most Thurston County districts, school boards and teachers or principals unions added their signatures to Washington’s application. Local exceptions were the teachers unions in Rainier and Tenino and the principals union in Tenino. Representatives of those teachers unions did not return messages left Tuesday afternoon.

“We’ve shown up for the game; we’ve brought the players to win. Today, we’ve laid out a plan to deliver the promised education reform to the students of Washington state,” Gregoire said Tuesday.

Washington sat out the first round of the Race to the Top competition, as legislators crafted education-reform bills that would address some of the reforms called for in Race to the Top program.

The Washington Legislature passed its versions of those reforms in the most recent session, and the Race to the Top money will help districts implement reforms.

The reforms called for include increased teacher and school accountability, help for struggling schools and creating “innovative schools.”

“Basically, we wanted to build a plan that made sense for us and that we could actually pull it off if we got the money,” Dorn said.

Gregoire said the education reforms passed this year will go through with or without the money from the federal government.

“If we don’t get the money, like the governor said, we’ll still move forward, but it will be at a much slower rate,” Dorn said.

The federal program is funded by $4.35 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money. Phase 2 has $3.4 billion available.

Education secretary Arne Duncan will select 10 to 15 states over the summer for the second phase of the Race to the Top grants, according to a news release from his office.

Venice Buhain: 360-754-5445 vbuhain@theolympian.com www.theolympian.com/edblog

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