State a finalist again for Race to the Top education funds

Colorado is one of 19 finalists in the second round of the Race to the Top competition for federal education funds.

Colorado was among 16 finalists in the first round, which was won earlier this year by Delaware and Tennessee. Winners of the second round will be announced in September.

The $4.35 billion available through Race to the Top will be distributed according to which states impress peer reviewers the most about what they’re doing about education reform. Nearly $3.4 billion is left to distribute in the second round, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Colorado is asking for $175 million in the second round, a reduction of $200 million from what was requested in round one, according to the Colorado Department of Education. The department estimates the 122 Colorado school districts participating in Race to the Top money, including School District 51, will receive $90 million if the state gets all the money it requested.

Nina Lopez, director of Race to the Top for Colorado, said she expects the competition to be stiff when states present applications to peer reviewers in two weeks in Washington, D.C. Colorado’s first-round score was lower than 11 other second-round finalists, but Lopez said she is confident the state will improve its score this time.

Colorado’s second application has many elements of the first, but it clarified some pieces that reviewers had questions about in the first round, such as the roles of the state and local districts in making the plan work. The state touts new legislation this time: Senate Bill 191, the so-called teacher tenure bill, which would revoke a teacher’s nonprobationary status if he or she is deemed ineffective two years in a row. “Senate Bill 191 certainly helped, but definitely in and of itself it’s not enough to get our score where it needs to be,” Lopez said.

Lopez said Colorado’s chances may be better this time, too, because 10 to 15 states may get grant approval this time.

Colorado will compete with Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. for Race to the Top funding. Seventeen states that applied in the second round were eliminated from the running Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Education will set aside $350 million from Race to the Top funds for a competition that will take place at a later time, according to a news release from the department. That contest will involve states creating new assessments.


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