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Georgia Forfeits, For Now, $9 Million in Race to Top Funds

More that six months after the U.S. Department of Education told Georgia it planned to withhold nearly $10 million of its Race to the Top grant over teacher-evaluation problems, federal officials have done just that.

Effective Jan. 15, Georgia lost access to $9.9 million of its $400 million Race to the Top grant—money that the state promised in its winning application to use for a merit-pay system tied to new teacher evaluations. The state has eliminated that merit-pay plan, has chosen not to appeal the department's decision, and is forfeiting the money—at least for now.

This marks the first time the federal department has withheld money as part of its signature, high-profile Race to the Top contest. Georgia and 10 other states plus the District of Columbia shared a $4 billion jackpot in 2010.

In the letter, shown below, federal officials indicate that after some initial back-and-forth between the Education Department and state officials, Georgia did not end up asking for an administrative hearing on the matter. The letter does leave open the possibility that if Georgia has a change of heart, it could get its merit-pay money back.

Georgia Department of Education spokesman Matt Cardoza told me that they haven't given up on that slice of their grant money, but chose not to appeal because they have until September to resubmit a merit-pay play and possibly get their money back. Any unused Race to the Top money reverts to the U.S. Treasury in 2015.

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