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Colorado in third round for Race to the Top funds

It was announced Wednesday that Colorado is one nine states to be eligible to apply for the third round of Race to the Top funds to augment state local funding for Colorado schools.

“Today’s announcement is good news – potentially even very good news – for Colorado,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a press release. “We have every intention of pursuing this opportunity to fund excellence in our schools. In the face of increasing global competition, educating our kids is the key to future economic success. Colorado will build on our previous Race to the Top applications, forge ahead with the reform efforts we already have underway and hopefully secure this federal funding.”

“Colorado has an aggressive education reform agenda with plans to improve early childhood literacy and educator effectiveness,” Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia said. “During these challenging economic times, it is critical that we pursue these Race to the Top funds to support a first rate education for every child in this state.”

As one of nine states, Colorado can apply for $10 to $50 million by updating the state’s last application submitted in June 2010. Grants will be awarded for programs in early childhood education and the K-12 public education system. All updated grant applications will be due to the U.S. Department of Education in the fall.

The U.S. Secretary of Education also announced a new and separate $500 million state-level grant competition, the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge. This grant will reward states that create comprehensive plans to transform early learning systems and is open to all states, including Colorado.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet released this statement:

“Colorado has led the country in groundbreaking education reforms. As was widely known throughout the education reform community, our state deserved to win an earlier Race to the Top round. We will now have the opportunity to ultimately win some Race to the Top resources to implement our cutting edge reforms. I am happy to provide any assistance I can to help ensure Colorado’s application is successful.

“Race to the Top is a great model demonstrating how the federal government can spur innovation and reform, which is desperately needed to improve our public education system. It can spur innovation by creating opportunities for people on the ground to try new approaches. The real work of reforming our schools must be done at the state and local levels and Race to the Top incentivizes dynamic new solutions to old problems, raise their standards and can lead to actually fixing the very schools that have persistently failed students.

“A round for early childhood education, which is key to a student’s success in school, can make a tremendous difference. I trust that the scoring system will be improved under this competition and other Race to the Top competitions moving forward. If that is the case, I will continue to fight to ensure that there are additional rounds of Race to the Top moving forward.”

Bennet, former superintendent of Denver Public Schools, is a member of the extended negotiation table currently crafting a bill to revise No Child Left Behind. He has cosponsored a bill to authorize Race to the Top as a permanent program.

“Race to the Top lifts the hopes and aspirations of all students because it fosters innovative and effective reforms that are improving America’s schools,” said Rep. Jared Polis in a press release. “This is the most successful education reform effort in history, and I will work to see that Colorado can continue its push to make every school a great school with the help of this funding. Our state’s recent early childhood education advancements and inclusion of early learning should give us a leg up in the competition. These funds will help provide hope and opportunity for our next generation.”

Polis is the author of the Race to the Top Act (H.R. 1532), which would authorize the initiative through 2017. The bill specifically includes an early learning component to ensure that children are prepared to learn when they enter the public school system. The legislation would also allow local school districts, beginning in the next fiscal year, to apply directly for Race to the Top grants.

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