Thursday, March 12, 2009

Arne Duncan and the Department of Education

A story on the News Hour tonight said that the Department of Education currently has $5 billion in discretionary funds (overall, according to the Washington Post, "public education is slated to receive about $100 billion in new federal money under the stimulus package") -- this is in stark contrast to a typical year, in which the DOE may have $100 or $200 million that's not already allocated towards specific programs.

Wow! I just have been doing some internet research and the $5 billion really is discretionary -- it will take the form of grants awarded to states and districts that provide evidence of programs that work.

The grants program is called the "Race to the Top." Here's the description on the DOE website:

Under the $5 billion in SFSF reserved for the Secretary of Education to make competitive grants, the Department will conduct a national competition among states for a $4.35 billion state incentive "Race to the Top" fund to improve education quality and results statewide. The Race to the Top fund will help states drive substantial gains in student achievement by supporting states making dramatic progress on the four reform goals described above and effectively using other ARRA funds. $650 million of the $5 billion will be set aside in the "Invest in What Works and Innovation" fund and be available through a competition to districts and non-profit groups with a strong track record of results. Guidelines and applications for the competitive funds will be posted expeditiously. Race to the Top grants will be made in two rounds—fall 2009 and spring 2010.

127. Is "Race to the Top" a big deal right now in educational circles? I had not heard about it, but I have to imagine that education reformers are loving this.

128. Obama and Duncan are both arguing that state caps on the number of charter schools (currently there are 26 states which have such caps) be lifted. Do charter schools have a strong lobbying arm right now? If not their results (since the evidence remains mixed), what accounts for their consistent ability to garner support from both political parties?

129. In terms of pedagogy, what's the significant of the national teacher certification that Duncan talks about? How do you get the certification?

130. How often does Duncan actually visit schools? I'd like to read that he was visiting one school a week as part of his regular schedule.

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