State Superintendent of Public Instruction Larry Shumway signs the new education vision statement, "Promises to Keep." Photo by Elizabeth Ziegler.
(KCPW News) Utah will apply for $400 million of the Obama Administration’s new $4 billion Race to the Top education reform grant program. State Superintendent Larry Shumway says the Office of Education will model its application after the newly adopted education plan, “Promises to Keep.” Shumway says the plan shows the state has clear goals for improving its education system, and the money will help the state reach those goals.
“It’s a race to the top. We don’t think we start anywhere near the bottom. But surely we want to end at the top,” Shumway says. “It’s crucial to our state’s future that Utah children have access to the best public schools that they can possibly have. We need to do everything we can to build on the successes we’ve had.”
Promises to Keep is a vision statement for Utah public education adopted last month by the State Board. It promises literacy for all Utah schoolchildren, high quality instruction and effective assessment to hold schools accountable for their performance.
The Race to the Top initiative aims to foster school reform and reward states that have invested in comprehensive strategies for improvement. But many state policymakers are wary of taking federal funding, over concerns that it will reduce local control and create new programs that won’t be sustainable when the federal dollars run out. Board chairwoman Debra Roberts says the state has already considered this.
“One of the things we’re very conscious of is this Race to the Top money is one-time funding and we’ve made a commitment that we will only use it for those things that are one-time funding that we can put into place something that will support itself or that will have that state funding there,” Roberts says. “So we can’t put ourselves in a position where three years from now we have to suddenly supplement with state funding.”
The first round of money from the Race to the Top program will be distributed in early 2010.