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Press Release

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

DOE Press Office
(850) 245-0413

Florida’s Efforts to Win Race To The Top Competition Bolstered by Strong District Support

~ 59 school districts sign on to participate in once-in-a-lifetime opportunity ~

TALLAHASSEE – Operating under extremely tight deadlines, 59 of Florida’s 67 school districts, three lab schools and the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind submitted signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) yesterday signifying their support for Florida’s efforts to obtain a portion of the $4.35 billion federal dollars available through the Race to the Top competition. Should Florida be successful in the competition, these districts are now eligible to receive their share of Florida’s total award to implement locally-developed comprehensive education reform plans that will accelerate student learning and improve the quality of education their schools provide.

“I commend every one of these districts for having the foresight to participate in this incredible opportunity and to declare in such a unified voice that they are ready to be leaders in the education reform efforts of our nation,” said Education Commissioner Dr. Eric J. Smith. “We may never see an opportunity like this again, and such a strong showing of support is evidence that Florida is ready to step up its efforts to provide our children with the quality education they deserve.”

“Our state has shown great care and thoughtfulness when it comes to the betterment of our children’s futures and I’m proud that so many of our districts have embraced this opportunity,” said State Board of Education Chairman T. Willard Fair. “The gravity of the challenges that exist in our world today demand that we do more to prepare our students, and it is clear that Florida is ready to answer that call.”

In addition to extensive school district participation, five local teacher unions also submitted their support for Florida’s efforts in the competition. Teacher union presidents from Duval, Hamilton, Hillsborough, Jefferson and Sarasota counties each signed the MOU expressing their desire to work collaboratively with local education leadership to improve their learning environments.

“Our teachers represent an essential piece of the education reform puzzle and the desire of these unions to sit at the table with their fellow education leaders and discuss this opportunity sets an example for all to follow,” said Commissioner Smith. “I remain optimistic that should Florida win this competition, many more of our local unions will realize the benefits within their grasp, and the flexibility they will have to develop plans that suit the needs of their communities.”

Each of the participating districts will now be included in Florida’s overall application for the Race to the Top competition. Applications must be turned in to the U.S. Department of Education by Jan. 19, 2010. Through the federal Race to the Top competition, the U.S. Department of Education has challenged all 50 states to propose bold education reforms focused on helping struggling schools, elevating the effectiveness of teaching professionals and education leaders, building internationally recognized education standards and assessments, and improving state education data systems. Fifty percent of a state’s total award will be distributed to participating school districts according to a federal funding formula and the remaining 50 percent will fund state-level projects benefiting all school districts statewide. Winners of the competition are expected to be announced in mid-April of 2010.

For more information about the Race to the Top competition, visit http://www.fldoe.org/ARRA/RacetotheTop.asp.