Delaware, Tennessee Win Education Funds
NOAH ADAMS, host:
From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Noah Adams.
It is not March Madness but Tennessee and Delaware are no less excited to have won the U.S. Education Department's Race to the Top competition. The surprise picks will each receive a share of the $4.3 billion that the Obama administration has set aside for turning around failing schools and adopting innovative school reforms.
NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports.
CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: Delaware and Tennessee were not considered frontrunners or favorites among the 16 finalists competing for Race to the Top funds, which explains why Amanda Anderson in the communications office at the Tennessee Department of Education didn't believe me when I told her Tennessee had won.
Take my word for it; this is not a crank call.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. AMANDA ANDERSON (Deputy Communications Director, Tennessee Department of Education): This is what you do on your workday. You just crank call states to this.
SANCHEZ: But Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen says he knew his state would be rewarded to the tune of $500 million.
Governor PHIL BREDESEN (Democrat, Tennessee): First of all, it's a wonderful validation of the fact that we're headed in the right direction here, and with the support of our teachers and our teachers' union.
SANCHEZ: That was a clincher: Education Department officials say Tennessee was chosen because 93 percent of the state's teachers' unions supported its proposal, so did every single school district, school board and business leader in the state. States that didn't get this kind of buy-in lost out.
But Governor Bredesen says Tennessee was also rewarded for having a law that's tough on teacher accountability and allows the state to take over chronically failing schools.
Gov. BREDESEN: Every state has got failing schools and the Race to the Top was about we want to encourage and reward those states who are willing to change things, and be willing to not be stuck in the old ruts.
SANCHEZ: Delaware, the only other winner, not only had unanimous support from educators and politicians, it, too, has a tough, new law that rates the effectiveness of teachers and principals. The state was awarded $100 million.
But Joel Packer, head of the Committee for Education Funding, says today's announcement raises questions that the Obama administration must answer.
Mr. JOEL PACKER (Executive Director, Committee for Education Funding): Are the districts and states that win these awards the neediest, or are they the ones that may be have already made the most progress, or have the best ability to write grant applications?
So I just think there's a big equity issue, might leave a lot of districts moving backwards.
SANCHEZ: The two winners beat out favorites Louisiana and Florida, as well as 12 other finalists. States that weren't picked have until June 1st to reapply for a second round and a piece of the remaining $3.7 billion left in the fund.
Claudio Sanchez, NPR News.
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