Congress is back this week. And while we've got a ways to go before lawmakers get down to work on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act, or even the fiscal year 2011 budget bills, there's one piece of legislation folks in the K-12 community should watch very closely: the health care bill. While there isn't much in the bill that relates to schools specifically, at least one debate over how to help fund a health care overhaul could have a lasting impact on teacher recruitment and retention. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have approved their ...


Arkansas superintendents greet the challenge of spending millions in extra federal funds.


Earlier this week, Alyson blogged about the tension between states and districts over Race to the Top participation. The more school districts that sign an MOU agreeing to participate in a state's reform plan, the more points a state gets in the competition. And participating school districts, in return, would enjoy a slice of their state's award. But many districts aren't sure exactly what they're committing to do, and even wonder if it's a binding agreement. Well, the U.S. Department of Education weighed in on this during two technical planning seminars last month, when state teams asked whether local ...


Colorado's Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat whose state is engaged in an all-out campaign for a Race to the Top Fund grant, has decided to not run for re-election. It's too soon to say what his decision will mean for the Centennial State's chances in the hot competition for a slice of the $4 billion in economic-stimulus program grants. Maybe nothing. Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien told me the state has worked hard to get broad, bipartisan support so that the plan will be carried through no matter who is in office next year. But some folks had speculated that Colorado ...


Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, a Democrat who has been very active on education issues throughout his decades-long career and came super close to being chairman of the Senate education committee when Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., passed away, plans to announce today that he won't seek re-election. Dodd has struggled with Connecticut voters who haven't liked his leadership on financial issues. (He's the chairman of the Senate banking committee and helped craft the multibillion-dollar Wall Street bailout/rescue package in fall 2008.) Interestingly, Dodd's departure might mean more of a role for education in the Senate race, not ...


As states scramble to get their Race to the Top Fund applications in before the Jan. 19 deadline, it looks like there's tension—or at least questions—emerging concerning those Memorandums of Understanding that districts are supposed to sign off on to show that they're planning to participate in the Race to the Top. Folks at two organizations that advocate for districts, the National School Boards Association and the American Association of School Administrators, tell me they've been fielding lots of questions on this issue. It sounds like in some places district officials aren't clear on whether the MOUs are...


Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat from Maryland, and the state's long-time schools chief, Nancy Grasmick, have never been close confidantes. The latest flare-up? O'Malley wants the state to go after a slice of the $4 billion Race to the Top fund, which rewards states for making progress on a set of education redesign-oriented assurances, and Grasmick is not quite so keen. Her reason? Maryland was one of the states that got turned down for one of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's grants-to-get-a-grant, in part because of its teacher-tenure law. Grasmick thinks that means the state probably doesn't stand a strong ...


That headline may sound very "dog bites man." But those folks who are hoping for more money for Title I, special education, and other federal programs have a new, energetic advocate on their team. Joel Packer, who until recently was the chief No Child Left Behind Act lobbyist for the National Education Association, a 3.2 million-member union, has stepped into the job of executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, a non-partisan coalition of 80 education groups that advocates for ... you guessed it, more money for education. Packer is now a principal (code for lobbyist) at the Raben ...


If you're a finalist for a Race to the Top grant in Round 1 of the competition, then the week of March 15 is when your state team will have to come to Washington, D.C. and make your in-person pitch to the peer reviewers. This nugget of information, plus more on the Race to the Top timeline, is contained in a new FAQs document released by the U.S. Department of Education today. Those who are finalists will be notified around March 1, which leaves about two weeks for states to prepare their Olympic-sized sales pitches. It's unclear if ...


So we're supposed to get hit with quite the winter storm here on the East Coast. Once you've stocked up on milk and toilet paper and are cuddled up with your hot chocolate, check out these good reads: At Flypaper, Andy Smarick dissects (in great detail) a trio of speeches by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. And while you're catching up with those Fordham folks, check out Mike Petrilli's Wall Street Journal op-ed on "Whole Foods" Republicans. Over at Teacher Beat, Stephen Sawchuk notes the Florida Education Association isn't too wild about this whole Race to the Top competition. Alexander ...


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