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Illinois Races for Federal Education Funds

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Illinois is keeping its fingers crossed today as it submits an application for millions in competitive federal education dollars.

The so-called Race to the Top has spurred major changes here, as Illinois has tried to position itself to capture the money. In the past six months state legislators have increased the number of charter schools that can operate.

They’ve mandated tougher teacher and principal evaluations that will now be tied to student learning. And they’re allowing groups like Teach for America to directly certify teachers. Those are all priorities the Obama administration has laid out.

STEANS: It’s pretty tough to ignore a $400-$500 million opportunity when we’re facing financial chasms such as we are here in Illinois .

Robin Steans heads Advance Illinois, a coalition of civic and business interests that pushed the reforms. Steans says they were needed regardless, but Race to the Top has been a nice carrot. More than 360 local school districts have signed on to Illinois ’ application.

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