White House Pledges $5 Billion to Encourage Innovations in Education

White House Pledges $5 Billion to Encourage Innovations in Education

The Obama administration has committed $5 billion in federal funds to state governments that embrace the administration's ideas for reforming the nation's schools, the Associated Press reports.

Included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed earlier this year, the Race to the Top Fund will require states to meet a series of conditions to earn points and boost their chances of receiving additional Department of Education funding. Grants from the fund will be used to encourage education reforms, with a focus on developing tougher academic standards, finding better ways to recruit and keep effective teachers, tracking student performance, and developing plans of action to turn around failing schools.

Some of the conditions of the funding are controversial among teachers unions and state officials. For instance, the administration supports performance pay linking teacher bonuses to student achievement using measures that include test scores — a proposal many teachers oppose on the grounds that tests can be deeply flawed and the fact that students often have more than one teacher. But the additional funds are proving hard to resist for states whose tax revenues have plummeted on account of the recession.

According to Department of Education secretary Arne Duncan, the grants will be awarded to ten to twenty states that can serve as models of innovation. Applications will be available in October, with the first round of grants to be awarded in March.

"Not every state will win, and not every school district will be happy with the results," said President Obama. "But America's children, America's economy, America itself will be better for it."

Libby Quaid. "Obama Pressures States to Embrace Schools Overhaul." Associated Press 07/24/2009.