By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 6, 2009 2:00 PM
The Obama administration on Tuesday announced goals for a $650 million grant competition for school systems and nonprofit organizations with ideas for narrowing achievement gaps, reducing high school dropout rates and improving teacher and principal effectiveness.
The competition dovetails with a $4.35 billion grant program for states that the administration calls "Race to the Top." The combined $5 billion in seed money for fixing or improving schools amounts to one of the largest federal investments to date in educational entrepreneurship.
Funding comes from the economic stimulus law, which gives the Education Department unusually wide latitude to pick grant winners.
In the $650 million venture, three types of grants would be awarded next year to school systems and nonprofit partners: up to $5 million for developing promising ideas; up to $30 million for reforms that already have a good track record; and up to $50 million for proven innovations that could help hundreds of thousands of students regionally or nationally. Applicants would be required to obtain public or private matching funds.
"We're making an unprecedented investment in cutting-edge ideas that will produce the next generation of school reforms," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.