Jilted states cry foul on Race to the Top funds

Liz Goodwin

Nine states and Washington, D.C., will split a pot of $3.4 billion in federal education money after winning the second round of the Race to the Top competition Tuesday.

In order to help qualify for the funds, dozens of states adopted  standards in line with the Obama administration's priorities: lifting caps on charter schools, pushing for teacher evaluations linked to test scores, and/or adopting common curriculum standards.

States that moved to adopt reforms but were passed over in the competition are crying foul, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Jilted states and other observers questioned the validity of a scoring system that left out states such as Colorado and Louisiana — which many had considered shoo-ins based on their reform efforts — while awarding money to Hawaii, which made few changes to strengthen its application. Some observers noted that seven of the 10 winners have governors who are Democrats.

[Race to the Top losers: Why did Colorado and Louisiana fail?]

Critics also said that Eastern states as well as states that had local unions' support in their applications were rewarded unfairly over states that made the most education reforms.

Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio  and Rhode Island were the competition's winners.

[How Race to the Top is rewriting American education]

New Jersey fell just shy of Ohio (the last state to win funding) because of a simple mistake in the application, reports the New Jersey Star-Ledger: Applicants were asked for information comparing the 2008 and 2009 budgets, but Republican Gov. Chris Christie's administration instead submitted information comparing this year's with 2011.

The state's largest teachers union is jumping on the governor for the mistake, telling the paper that the funding loss is "a direct result of Gov. Christie's misguided decision to hijack the grant application process for his own political purposes." The Democratic state Assembly leader called it a "stunning $400 million mistake."

But even winners make mistakes. An elated New York Gov. David Paterson announced to a roomful of reporters Tuesday that he's really happy his state won the "race to the cock."

(Photo of Christie: AP)