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McQuillan Announces Advances in the Race to the Top Program
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State education officials say they are in the final stages of an application for $175 million in federal money to train the state's teachers and reform its schools. WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports.

Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan surrounded himself with education advocates Monday -- an effort to signal that the state is committed to collaboration as it makes a final push for millions in federal aide.

“Today is the day that the districts throughout the state who have been invited to participate in the race to the top are asked to submit their memorandum of understanding agreeing to participate in the work.”

Race to the Top is the Obama administration's more than four billion dollar grant program in which states will compete. As of Monday afternoon, 66 towns and cities had signed on to the state's application. The state expects another 15 or so to join on before the application is due next week.

The state and its municipalities spend roughly $8.5 billion a year on education.  If its application for federal money is successful, it could get $175 million over four years. McQuillan says the state wants to work on a series of goals - chief among them being recruiting, training, rewarding, and retaining teachers:

“Why it is so important is that that is the central thrust of this application. We expect that we are going to move significantly to not only build new tools but to also train significant numbers of teachers and principals to use them well.”

State officials say half of the money - roughly $87 million - will go directly to municipalities.  The amount each city or town gets will be determined based on the size of its enrollments and the depth of its poverty.  Hartford could get almost $15 million, while New Haven and Bridgeport could get about $10 million each.

State officials expect to learn whether their application is successful later this spring.

For WNPR, I’m Jeff Cohen.