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Assembly Education Committee and LAO Review Race to the Top Funding

By Jeff Hudson - October 9, 2009

The Assembly Education Committee reviewed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and ARRA’s Race to the Top (RTTT) competitive grant program during a lengthy hearing at the state capitol last week.

It was the first of four informational hearings to be held by the Assembly Education Committee on RTTT funding.  The goal is to examine legislative action that would maximize California’s eligibility for funding, and convey information to school districts about the program.

“We are taking this opportunity today to continue what we started in March,” said Assemblymember Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica). “There is clearly urgency about these hearings – I also want to be sure we are getting it right,” she added.

California is currently receiving $6.1 billion in formula-based grants for K-12 education under ARRA, and could apply for an additional $800 million in competitive ARRA grants.

Grant possibilities under Race to the Top include State Incentive Grants, State Standards and Assessment Grants, and District Innovation Grants.

California is developing a plan to compete for RTTT Phase 1 funding. The California Department of Education will be doing outreach and collaboration work with school districts in October and November in this regard. Phase 1 plans will likely be due to the federal government in late December or January, with Phase 2 funding deadlines extending into 2010.

Application criteria for RTTT funds fall into three categories:

– Eligibility Requirement 1: States must have received approval for second-round State Fiscal Stabilization Funding (SFSF)

– Eligibility Requirement 2: States must not have any legal barriers to linking student achievement data to teachers/principals for the purposes of evaluation.

– Absolute Priority: States must have a coherent and comprehensive plan for addressing four reform areas: 1) High-quality standards and assessments, 2) Data systems that support instruction, 3) Effective teachers and principals, and 4) Support for struggling schools.

If those criteria are met, states earn additional “points” for meeting 19 different selection criteria, falling into two categories:

a) Preconditions: States earn points if they have already met these criteria, intended to reward states for past accomplishments in key reform areas.

b) Plans for reform:. States earn points based on the quality of their plans for meeting certain performance targets, intended as an incentive for states to improve in key reform areas.

The next meeting of the Assembly Education Committee for discussion of RTTT funding will be on Oct. 28.  The meeting will be held at 10:00am in Room 4202.

The Senate Education Committee is expected to begin its hearings on RTTT next Tuesday at 9:30am.

A handout with an overview of Race to the Top Grants prepared by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office is available at the link below:


Editor's Note: Jeff Hudson is the editor of EdBrief and an award-winning education reporter and writer in print, radio and television media.