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Georgia Among Ten Race to the Top Winners | News

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Georgia Among Ten Race to the Top Winners
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ATLANTA -- "This is going to be really exciting," exclaimed Governor Sonny Perdue.

$400 million in federal Race to the Top money looked mighty good to Perdue, who has watched school systems lose billions in tax funding during a two-year economic downturn.  

"This is really the first time that we've had the money and the resources to really move the needle significantly in education," Perdue said at a Capitol news conference.  

But the Governor is talking about using the Race to the Top money to innovate schools, not infuse operating cash to rehire teachers or restore cut programs.  Race to the Top is a competition to reform education, with federal dollars as the prize.

Half of Georgia's prize money will go to the state Department of Education.  The rest will go to the 26 Georgia school systems that participated in the application.

"Georgia's in a place where all of Georgia needs to do well," said Marcus Downs of the Georgia Association of Educators, which criticized Race to the Top.  Downs says the losers are the 155 school systems in Georgia that declined to participate.

"I definitely don't mind competing with South Carolina (or) North Carolina," Downs said. "That way all of Georgia is competing, as opposed to a few systems that are able to get their systems in place to be competitive for some money."

Wanda Barrs, chair of the state Board of Education, told 11Alive News that the remaining 155 districts will benefit from that 50 percent chunk of Race to the Top money going directly to the state Department of Education.

The biggest winner is Gwinnett County's school system.  It's the state's largest, it participated in the state's application, and it will undoubtedly get the biggest chunk of federal money, state officials say.

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