Hawaii a Finalist in Race to the Top Round Two

After failing at its first bid for federal Race to the Top funds, Hawaii has placed among 19 finalists with its second application for one of the coveted education grants.

The $4.35 billion Race to the Top program is an Obama administration effort to incentivize education reforms nationwide. Gov. Linda Lingle, the Hawaii State Board of Education and a number of other partners will learn in September if the state has won the $75 million it seeks with an application education department officials believe is more clear and specific than the state's first bid.

A five-person panel will travel to D.C. in two weeks to explain and make a case for the application before the U.S. Department of Education. There's only enough money for 12 states to come out winners.

“Whether or not Hawaii receives Race to the Top funds, we are committed to implementing the initiatives detailed in our application plan," Lingle said in a news release.

The state is under pressure to reform its schools from a number of quarters. Student achievement in Hawaii lags based on national assessments. "Furlough Fridays" prompted widespread public anger over the situation. Three former governors have formed an organization urging greater accountability. The Race to the Top program has given educators and political leaders something to rally around, to focus their efforts on a clear goal that carries with it something they say they don't have enough of — money.

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