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Minnesota joins Race to the Top

Minnesota last week submitted an application for Race to the Top, hoping to leverage $45 million in federal grant monies to support early learning reforms.

How that may or may not impact local school districts remains to be seen.

The Minnesota Department of Education and Governor Mark Dayton submitted the application. This is the third round of Race to the Top grant applications; Minnesota applied in the first round but was unsuccessful, and did not apply in the second round. Race to the Top is the nation's largest competitive education grant program.

The United States Department of Education will award the grants by year's end. Until then, said Perham-Dent Superintendent Mitch Anderson, "we don't' know what their expectations or guidelines would be. We don't know yet how it might impact the district."

Nearly half the grant money would be used in high-poverty areas, including neighborhoods in Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as the White Earth Reservation and Itasca County. The rest would fund infrastructure for pre-kindergarten programming.

Thousands of stakeholders have had a hand in writing this application. Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said it provides a roadmap for moving the state toward an aligned system of accountable and effective early childhood education.

"Minnesota's best hope for the future rests on the promises we make to our children today," she stated in the press release. "I'm proud that our Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge application reflects this administration's and our state's strong commitment to provide equitable opportunities so every child has access to high quality early learning programs."