United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., welcomed today's announcement by U.S. Department of Education (ED) Secretary Arne Duncan that Louisiana is one of 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, to advance to the final round in the competition for education funding through Phase Two of the Race to the Top program. During this phase, 36 states and the District of Columbia applied to compete for $3.4 billion in federal education grants. Louisiana was one of 16 finalists for Phase One of the Race to the Top competition. Only two states - Delaware and Tennessee - were named winners during Phase One.
Senator Landrieu has been a long-time advocate of education reform and has been a champion of the Race to the Top program since its inception. The program is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, for which Sen. Landrieu voted last year.
"Louisiana's ongoing focus on student performance and teacher effectiveness deserves to be recognized by this competition," Sen. Landrieu said. "This extraordinary effort in our state has been going on for 20 years and it is paying dividends for Louisiana's children and serves as a model for the nation. I felt strongly that Louisiana met the criteria to win the first round of the competition, and I most certainly feel optimistic that when Secretary Duncan announces the Phase two winners, Louisiana will be standing proud among them."
If Louisiana emerges as a winner, the state could receive up to $175 million over the next four years, the amount state leaders requested in their application to the Department of Education. Race to the Top awards could help the 325,000 public school students in the 28 participating Louisiana school districts.
As in the prior application, Louisiana's Phase Two application, "Our Children Can't Wait: Louisiana's Blueprint for Education Reform," is centered on ensuring that across the state every student is taught by an effective teacher, and every teacher is supported by an effective leader.
However, from Phase One to Phase Two, Louisiana elaborated more around its focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs.
Louisiana's Race to the Top application has also been adjusted to reflect ED's mandate that states limit their grant requests to the funding ranges identified by the federal education agency. In Phase One, Louisiana asked for $314 million. Based on the range issued by ED, Louisiana's Phase Two application cannot exceed $175 million, and thus the state's plan was adjusted considerably based on the significant reduction for potential funding.
According to the ED, Phase Two of the Race to the Top grant competition is a separate contest from Phase 1. All states, regardless of being named as finalists in the first round, will be judged solely on the new applications that are submitted. The federal education agency notes that each state's application will be reviewed by a new panel -- different from the set of reviewers who evaluated the state's first round application, and that the applications will be judged based on the reforms outlined in the application, not on the changes made between Phases One and Two of the competition.
Second Round finalists will present their applications in D.C. the week of August 9. ED is scheduled to announce the winners in late August or early September.