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Massachusetts Misses Out on Federal Education Funding - For Now

Posted by Andre Mayer on Mar 29, 2010 12:44:00 PM

Massachusetts will not receive funding in the first round of federal Race to the Top (RTTT) school reform grants, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today.  Only two states, Tennessee and Delaware, were funded.   Applications for the second round are due June 1.

Massachusetts was on the list of 16 finalists announced earlier this month.  The final selection was made on a non-political basis using a scoring system that measured state track records in education reform as well as new proposals for use of the RTTT funds to improve assessment standards, personnel policies, data systems, and processes to turn around low-achieving schools.  Massachusetts stands to receive funding in the $250 million range if it eventually qualifies. About half of the grant will flow directly to local school districts, with the balance to be allocated in support of various statewide initiatives.

Education reform is an issue of immense importance to the employer community in Massachusetts because our competitiveness is based on the high quality of our workforce.  Massachusetts students lead the nation in performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), but are less outstanding on international comparisons. And these results are marred by large achievements gaps between subgroups of students.

AIM, together with the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education and other organizations, supported a strong state application to the RTTT competition.  Members of AIM's Public Affairs Council and staff met with state Secretary of Education Paul Reville and Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester and their staffs during the application process.  We supported legislation initially filed by Governor Patrick to raise the cap on charter schools and strengthen state intervention in chronically underperforming public schools - requirements for RTTT –-that passed the Legislature in January over fierce opposition from teachers' unions.

Although the federal dollars would certainly help Massachusetts to press forward with school reform is a time of fiscal constraint, we believe that the state's planning effort, and the legislation enacted as part of the application effort, have value in themselves.  We expect that our strong record of reform, combined with a somewhat more aggressive proposal for improvement, will make Massachusetts a strong contender in the second round of awards.

AIM's Public Affairs Council will host a meeting with Commissioner Chester on Thursday to discuss the RTTT and other economic stimulus funding for K-12 Education.  There are significant opportunities to advance education reform despite the RTTT setback. There is also an important role for business in shaping a more competitive application for the round two RTTT deadline June 1.

Please contact Candace Kydd at AIM if you would like to attend Thursday's meeting.

Topics: AIM

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