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House Dems Include Money for Race to the Top 2.0 in Giant Spending Bill

The sequel to the Obama administration's signature education initiative may be coming soon to a U.S. Department of Education near you.

Leaders in the Democratic-for-now House of Representatives have included $550 million to extend the Race to the Top program in a giant spending bill that finances most government programs (including those in the department) at last year's levels until Sept. 30.

The $550 million is still a lot less than the $1.35 billion the administration asked for, and less than was approved over the summer by a House panel ($800 million) or a Senate panel ($675 million). But it's something.

Interestingly, language extending the competitive grant program to districts, an administration priority, is not in the package, according to Ellis Brachman, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee. The money isn't going to go very far if it only can go to states. (A grant to say, California, would pretty much wipe it out, at least according to the ranges used for the recent competition.)

House leaders had to make a special exception to provide funding for Race to the Top under this bill, because it was originally financed under the recovery act, not the regular fiscal year 2010 spending bill. The difference may sound technical, but it's important when it comes to this sort of thing.

It doesn't look like the Investing in Innovation grant program, also created under the recovery act, was as fortunate. It doesn't appear to be extended under the House measure. And it doesn't look like there's money for the Early Learning Challenge Fund, which was aimed at helping states improve their prekindergarten programs.

The House measure also includes money to help make up for a shortfall in the Pell Grant program, which helps low-income students cover the cost of college. Under the bill, the maximum Pell Grant award in fiscal year 2011 will be the same as the 2010 level.

The full House is expected to vote on the measure later this week. You can check out a summary of the bill here.

This isn't the final word on Race to the Top, or the budget. The Senate, which had been working on a giant spending bill to fund most of the federal government, may well decide to pass its own bill that could include new funding levels for Race to the Top and other programs.

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