Missouri was not among the 16 finalists for the US Department of Education’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top competitive grant program. The news was delivered last week by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who named Colorado, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee as the top applications. Missouri had applied for nearly $750 million in the first round. Forty states and the District of Columbia also applied for the first round of funds. The winners will be announced in the first week in April.
While the scorecards and comments for each state’s application will not be available until April, not placing in the top 16 out of 41 applications is a clear sign that Missouri’s application did not go far enough toward implementing quality reforms. Noticeably absent from Missouri’s application was a push for expanding charter schools outside of the St. Louis and Kansas City school districts. While leaving charter expansion out of the application may not have been the “determining factor” in not making the finalists, ten states that were among the finalists moved to lift or raise caps on charters, or had strong charter laws already in place. Also, missing from Missouri’s application was teacher tenure reform, the main reason the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation did not award Missouri a $250,000 grant to help with the application process.
Missouri’s limitations on charters, allowing them only in the St. Louis and Kansas City school districts, is clearly an artificial cap that Secretary Duncan has repeatedly said would put a state at a disadvantage for winning the much needed funding. State Senator Scott Rupp and State Representative Scott Dieckhaus have sponsored legislation that would significantly expand charter schools throughout the state. These bills have yet to receive hearings in committee, but discussion on these bills will likely now be held by the Education Committees in both chambers when they return from Spring Break.
Missouri Education Commissioner, Dr. Chris NiCastro, has already stated that the state will apply for round two of the program. Those applications are due June 1st and winners will be announced in September.
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