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South Carolina's Race to Top: Post-Game Analysis

Two down. Fourteen more to go.

South Carolina and Florida were the first Race to the Top finalists to make presentations to judges this morning at the U.S. Department of Education.

In a post-game call with a few reporters, Jim Rex, South Carolina's schools chief, said the 90-minute session was "comprehensive and rigorous," with lots of detailed questions and requests for clarification from the reviewers hearing the state's pitch for a share of the $4 billion in economic-stimulus grants. Confidentiality agreements kept Mr. Rex from disclosing any specific queries that came from the judges. The superintendent said the judges on the five-member review panel introduced themselves and that some of them had "national expertise." He also said that some of the panel members, who've been cloaked in anonymity to the public, were familiar to him.

Mr. Rex (who, by the way, is running for governor) expressed confidence that his team's session had gone well, and he boasted that "we weren't sponsored by any particular foundation," obviously referring to South Carolina being one of only two finalist states (Delaware is the other) that did not receive a $250,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help prepare its application. South Carolina also didn't receive an invitation from the Aspen Institute to rehearse its presentation, as some states did.

"We didn't have a high-priced consultant," he said. "This is our proposal. We own it."

Overall, Mr. Rex had high praise for the Race to the Top application process, saying that the in-person interviews were a necessary part of a process that includes "a lot of money and potentially a transformational opportunity for the country."

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