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Obama to Propose Race to the Top for Educational Equity

The Obama administration wants to focus the next round of the Race to the Top program on bolstering educational equity for disadvantaged students, according to sources.

The administration's fiscal year 2015 budget proposal—which is slated to be released Tuesday—seeks a $300 million iteration of the administration's signature Race to the Top program aimed at enticing schools to close the achievement gap. It's unclear if the money would go to districts, states, or some combination.

The program would include a teacher-equity component, as well as seek to close gaps in other areas, such as student discipline. The administration has already put forth guidance to encourage districts to ensure that minority students aren't punished more—or more harshly—than others. That move prompted questions in a letter from U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, and other key Republicans on the panel.

Separately, the department is already at work on a "50-state strategy" on teacher equity, which is aimed at ensuring that states give students from low-income families the same access to effective teachers as their more advantaged peers.

Overall, it's unclear how the Race to the Top proposal will go over with Congress, which has become increasingly skeptical of the administration's strategy of using competitive grants to further its education priorities. The administration wasn't able to sell a new, $1 billion version of Race to the Top aimed at bolstering higher education to lawmakers last year, for example. Instead, the proposal was scaled back to $250 million and refocused on early education.

It's also notable that the original version of Race to the Top, financed under the broader federal economic-stimulus program, also sought to bolster educational equity, by rewarding states for taking aggressive action to turn around the lowest-performing schools and to tie teachers' evaluations and pay to student outcomes.

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