THE 'RACE' CONTINUES: The U.S. Department of Education last week released its newest Race to the Top grant application , which focuses on early education and increasing kindergarten readiness. States that choose to participate are competing for a chunk of $500 million to be doled out based on state plans for adopting and strengthening policies in five core areas, with an emphasis on increasing access for high-need children, measuring the efforts of pre-K programs and holding programs accountable for performance. The New America Foundation
handicaps each state's chances of winning one of the grants that range from $50 million to $100 million, based on state size. The top 11 contenders include New Mexico , Colorado , Oklahoma , Louisiana , Iowa , Ohio , Pennsylvania , Tennessee , North Carolina , Vermont and Maryland , according to the foundation's analysis of current early education systems in each state. Of those, all but Oklahoma and Tennessee indicated earlier this summer they planned to apply for the funds. The deadline is Oct. 19.
Meanwhile, Education Week reports that a group of 25 reform-minded state education officials, referred to as the Chiefs for Change, are urging the Education Department not to back down on requirements for previous Race to the Top winners. New York and Hawaii both have had problems implementing teacher evaluation programs, while Rhode Island won an amendment to its proposal that will delay by at least a year its awarding of grants to expand high-performing charter schools. Each of the 12 past winners has applied for at least one amendment to its plan.
CATHOLIC SCHOOLS LURE INDIANA VOUCHERS: Nearly 70 percent of Indiana's 3,200 voucher recipients switched to Catholic schools from public schools this school year , the Associated Press reports. This was the result, in part, of a new law signed by Governor Mitch Daniels this spring that's broader than most other voucher programs across the country. It allows middle-class students in strong schools to apply for the vouchers along with poorer students in low-performing schools. Opponents of the plan, which has received most of its applications from students in urban areas such as Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Gary, say that the new law will make it even harder for struggling schools in those cities by reducing their funding. A temporary injunction,
sought by the Indiana State Teachers Association, was denied in August, NPR's StateImpact Indiana
reports . The association's lawsuit, arguing that the voucher law violates separation of church and state, hasn't been heard yet.
CONNECTICUT WARNS 11 SCHOOL DISTRICTS: Connecticut's State Department of Education told 11 cities and towns that they will break state law if they don't increase their education spending , according to the Connecticut Mirror . School districts are required to spend at least as much as they did the year before to qualify for state funding, and state officials say this is the first time some districts have not done so. While education officials in some of these towns say they hope to receive more money from their municipalities to meet the state requirement, others say they won't be able to comply. Last week, Winchester Superintendent Thomas Danehy wrote to the state education department's chief financial officer, Brian Mahoney, that the district likely won't be able to come up with the extra $1.4 million it needs to spend. It's unclear what the consequences will be if districts fall short.