LAREDO, TEXAS—Today, Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) announced that South Texas school districts will now have the opportunity to compete for federal funding under the Race to the Top program. Race to the Top is a United States Department of Education contest created to encourage innovation in public education.
Under guidelines announced today, the Race to the Top district-level competition will offer school districts the opportunity to compete for $400 million in awards by designing plans to use individualized classroom instruction to close achievement gaps and increase the rates at which students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers. Congress approved funding for the Race to the Top district-level competition this budget year.
“Education is the great equalizer, so this is good news for Texas schools,” said Cuellar. “By expanding the Race to the Top program to allow school districts to apply, the Department of Education is offering South Texas schools their fair shot at a piece of the $400 million pie should they qualify and win. I am hopeful that eligible schools in our community will take advantage of this opportunity to improve classroom instruction to help close achievement gaps and meet all students’ needs.”
Previously, Race to the Top funding was distributed only at the state level. Texas was one of few states that did not apply to the Race to the Top contest, meaning that South Texas schools were not eligible for any Race to the Top funding.
The Race to the Top District Program will build on lessons learned from the state-level competitions and award funds to districts that have the leadership and vision to implement a shift beyond a “one-size-fits-all” model of schooling to personalized, student-focused approaches to teaching and learning. The Department of Education expects to announce awards for a total of 15 to 20 districts of as much as $25 million each in December 2012.
“We are inviting districts to show us how they can personalize education for a set of students in their schools,” said Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan in a written statement. “We need to take classroom learning beyond a one-size-fits-all model and bring it into the 21st century.”
The proposed 2012 Race to the Top district-level competition criteria invites applications from districts or groups of districts serving at least 2,500 students with 40 percent or more qualifying for free or reduced price lunch. More information about the Race to the Top District Program is available here: http:// www.ed.gov/race-top/districtcompetition.