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For a Future 'i3' Contest, New Proposed Rules

Just in case there is a future for the Investing in Innovation, or 'i3', competition, the U.S. Department of Education is gearing up.

They've published proposed regulations that seek to tweak the rules that governed the 2010 competition. Comments are due by Feb. 9.

Among the changes: the department wants to give itself more flexibility in determining what priorities i3 grant applicants must focus on when they make their pitches, and what selection criteria will be used to judge the applicants.

In addition, the current regulations specify that a grant recipient can only win two awards and no more than $55 million under the program. The department wants to make sure if there are future competitions, that last year's winners aren't automatically disqualified. The proposed regulations say this is in the best interests of helping scale up good ideas. (Good news for favorites like TFA and KIPP!)

And, perhaps most significantly, the department wants to relax the 20-percent private-sector matching funds requirement, which is a big burden to some smaller entities, such as rural school districts. Under the new rules, the department would be able to specify different matching requirements for different types of awards, and wouldn't necessarily require 20 percent in matching funds from anyone.

Although the Congressional fate of i3's future is unknown, some are already speculating that the department could create an i3-like competition if it wanted to through the Fund for Innovation. In the words of my co-blogger Alyson, that's "a sort of slush fund that usually finances earmarks (which are out of fashion these days)."

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