United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., welcomed today's announcement by U.S. Department of Education (ED) Sec. Arne Duncan that Louisiana is one of nine finalist states that did not win grants in the first two rounds of Race to the Top (RTT) but will be eligible to compete for $200 million in additional funds this year.
"Despite not winning Race to the Top funding last year, Louisiana has pressed on to implement its bold education reform plan," Sen. Landrieu said. "It's this kind of relentless commitment that makes Louisiana a prime candidate for the newly available Race to the Top funding."
Louisiana, along with Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and South Carolina, can seek grants ranging from $10 million to $50 million, depending on state size and the final number of grants. Given that these grants are smaller than the ones originally applied for, states will work with ED to update their RTT plans to reflect a more limited scope of work.
Sen. 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. Last year's competition was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Sen. Landrieu supported in 2009. The additional funding now available was secured in the final Fiscal Year 2011 budget agreement.
Race to the Top awards will be used to help the 325,000 public school students in participating Louisiana schools.
Also today, Sec. Duncan and Sec. of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius announced that the Obama Administration plans to use an additional $500 million of the Fiscal Year 2011 RTT funding for a new Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), a major competition in support of bold and comprehensive state plans for raising the quality of early learning programs.
This new program, which mirrors the one outlined by the Supporting State Systems of Early Learning Act (S. 470) cosponsored by Sen. Landrieu, will be jointly administered by ED and HHS. The new competition will call for states to take a comprehensive approach to developing integrated, high-quality early learning systems, which in turn will help ensure that more children, especially high-need children, enter school ready and able to succeed.
"I am thrilled that the Obama Administration is dedicating $500 million to a new competition among states to improve and innovate in the important field of early childhood education," Sen. Landrieu said. "It is rewarding to see that my support for this type of competition--and the support of so many other stakeholders--has paid off."
Earlier today, it was announced that, for the fourth consecutive year, gains in the percentage of students performing at grade level in the Recovery School District (RSD) outpaced state gains, according to data released today by the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE). During that time frame, the percentage of RSD students scoring at or above Basic has more than doubled.
Overall, eight RSD schools--all charter schools--exceeded the 66 percent statewide average of students performing at or above Basic. These schools are: Akili Academy of New Orleans, Martin Behrman Elementary School, KIPP Believe College Prep, New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy (Sci Academy), KIPP Central City Academy, O. Perry Walker Senior High School, MLK Charter School for Science and Technology, and Lafayette Academy of New Orleans.
"Once again, the Recovery School District is proving that it is effectively turning around Louisiana's lowest-performing schools," Sen. Landrieu said. "These incredible gains are further evidence that Louisiana's education reforms are working. I'd like to congratulate the students, teachers and leaders of RSD schools on this tremendous accomplishment. "