CHICAGO – January 19, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn and the Illinois State Board of Education today submitted the state’s ‘Race to the Top’ application to the U.S. Department of Education (USED), seeking $510 million to fund innovative approaches to education in Illinois. ‘Race to the Top’ is a $4.35 billion competitive federal grant program.
“Illinois has taken great strides in education and is in an excellent position to take full advantage of ‘Race to the Top’ funding,” Governor Quinn said. “A top-notch education for all Illinois students is our foremost priority. ‘Race to the Top’ is a great way to accelerate the work that’s already underway with much-needed federal funding.”
‘Race to the Top’ provides Illinois with a unique opportunity to advance its education agenda as the program’s priorities – such as P-20 alignment to high standards, data-based decision-making, improving human capital, intensive supports for lowest performing schools and districts and comprehensive high school reforms – are closely aligned with the state's education strategy.
Three-hundred and sixty-six school districts, representing 74 percent of Illinois’ students and over 80 percent of the state’s low-income students, have agreed to make student performance at least 50 percent of evaluation criteria if Illinois receives ‘Race to the Top’ funds. One hundred and fifteen local union leaders also committed to the plan, demonstrating that the most challenging reforms in education can be tackled in partnership with teachers.
Further, 12 districts and their teachers’ unions agreed to waive the collective bargaining restrictions necessary to tackle an even bolder set of reforms together in some of the state’s lowest performing schools. The agreement gives the principals in these low-performing schools extra autonomy to carry out school turnaround activities.
The Governor’s Office, the Illinois State Board of Education, major teachers’ unions, civic and business leaders, advocates, management groups and legislators have been working together for several months to ensure Illinois is in the best position possible to receive ‘Race to the Top’ funding.
In December, Governor Quinn made 23 appointments to the P-20 Council, who will continue to support Illinois’ quest to secure ‘Race to the Top’ funding. Last week, the Governor signed two bills to boost Illinois’ application. The Performance Evaluation Reform Act of 2010 improves teacher and principal evaluations and SB 616 enables non-profit organizations to offer alternative teacher certification programs, increasing the number of high-quality training programs, both priorities established by the USED.
Illinois’ application is available online at http://www.isbe.state.il.us/racetothetop/default.htm.