DALLAS – The Dallas Independent School District is not among the 16 applicants that won millions of dollars of federal grants under the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program, the U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday.
The district, the second largest in Texas, announced it was a finalist for more than $30 million at the end of November. The 16 winners will all share $400 million, with each receiving four-year-awards of between $10 million to $40 million.
Dallas wanted to use the money to bolster attendance and graduation rates in schools located in the southern and western sectors of the city; namely, Pinkston and Lincoln High Schools, along with other campuses that teach students who will eventually enroll there.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan stood alongside Superintendent Mike Miles, Mayor Mike Rawlings and Board of Trustees President Lew Blackburn at Pinkston to announce that Dallas was a finalist.
Race to the Top is President Barack Obama’s signature education reform policy and has faced controversy among Texas politicians, especially Gov. Rick Perry, who called it “irresponsible.”
In 2010, Perry tried to block the state from seeking the federal money, however Duncan said he supported revising the rules so individual districts could compete for the funds despite the governor’s resistance.
Independent peer reviewers judged each of the 372 applicants. Each had to show how the district would use the grant money to better personalize education for its students and how to increase resources to boost teacher effectiveness and accountability.
While Dallas lost out, there were two winners in Texas. Harmony Public Schools, an Austin-based charter school program with K-12 locations across the state, was one of the 16 awarded with federal funds. Seven Harmony schools, including the Harmony Science Academies in Fort Worth and Dallas, were named among Newsweek’s annual America’s Best High Schools list.
IDEA Public Schools, a charter school network of tuition-free K-12 campuses through the Rio Grande Valley along with Austin and San Antonio, was awarded $29 million over the next four years.