Race To The Top Loses All Funding If …

If the $1.01 trillion spending bill unveiled by congressional leaders, passes without changes in these areas: the president’s chief education initiative, Race to the Top, loses all funding.

The Education Department would take a slight hit in funding; at $70.5 billion, down $133 million below the fiscal year 2014, but special education grants to states would get $25 million more than last year, up to $11.5 billion.

The $4.3 billion-dollar Race to the Top was Obama’s main education initiative, as an effort to ensure that every student was “college and career ready” and to achieve “educational equity” by aggressively  “turning around” the lowest-performing schools (or by closing them if they didn’t turn around fast enough.) The program was a competition among states for federal funding, with certain stipulations; states (and later districts) had to promise to implement specific school reforms favored by Education Secretary Arne Duncan in order to win the cash. The Gates Foundation awarded millions of dollars to states that sought its help in designing their Race to the Top contest entries. The program became controversial as some critics said it represented federal intrusion into local education (though states were not required to participate) and critics wondered how a competition among states  – which would create winners and losers — could create educational equity.

There is also no funding for the Common Core State Standards in this legislation. The development of the standards and their implementation was not federally funded, though the Obama administration did provide $360 million to two multi-state consortia that developed new Core-aligned standardized tests, which are being given to students for the first time this school year.

The House and Senate congressional summaries of education-related funding in the 2015 omnibus bill highlight different things. The Republican-led House notes that Race to the Top is being eliminated, while the Senate version doesn’t mention it.