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$100 Million High School-Redesign Competition Nets 275 Applications

At least 275 school districts and their partnering organizations applied for a piece of a new $100 million competition run by the Obama administration to redesign high schools, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.

The Youth CareerConnect competition—being funded and run out of the Labor Department—appears to include a mix of approaches used in the federal Race to the Top and Investing in Innovation programs, both administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Between 25 and 40 grants will be awarded this spring for high schools that team up with colleges and employers. The grants will range in size from $2 million to $7 million. Just as with the i3 competition, winners will have to secure private matching funds of at least 25 percent to get their grant.

A spokesman for the Labor Department said it's too early to tell how many of the applicants met all of the requirements of the contest, or to provide a breakdown of who they are or where they come from. The deadline to apply was Jan. 27.

Now comes the judging.

According to the Labor Department, the agency's Employment and Training Administration will recruit a diverse group of panelists with expertise in relevant areas from the workforce system, institutions of higher education, community and faith-based organizations, labor, business and industry partners, and other related organizations to review and score applications, along with federal staff. The final scores from that review process will serve as the primary basis for selections, while grant officers may also consider other factors such as geographic balance, the availability of funds, and representation among various industries and occupations. 

It's important to note that there will be discretion in how the $100 million will be awarded; it appears money won't necessarily be handed out by going down a slate of high-scorers.

President Barack Obama referred to the contest during Tuesday's State of the Union Address. He said: "We're working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career."

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