Deal announces Race to the Top grant

April 1, 2011

Gov. Nathan Deal today announced the launch of Georgia’s Innovation Fund, a $19.4 million competitive grant program created through Georgia’s Race to the Top (RT3) plan.

Through the Innovation Fund, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget will award grants to partnerships between local education authorities or charter schools, institutions of higher education, businesses and nonprofit organizations that develop or implement innovative and high-impact programs aimed at producing positive outcomes for students. 

“Georgia’s Race to the Top Innovation Fund will unleash some our state’s greatest attributes: our entrepreneurial and creative spirits,” said Deal. “In any year, this grant provides a great opportunity to pursue new ideas for improving education, but in tough budget times such as these, this grant is truly extraordinary. Georgia will continue to show the nation that we’re deserving of Race to the Top; I’m excited to see proposals come in from all over the state.”

The Innovation Fund will provide competitive grants for proposals that creatively leverage members’ financial, human and intellectual resources to address one or more of the four following priorities:

  • Raising student achievement through the development and delivery of applied learning opportunities and experiences directly tied to a subject matter, especially in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
  • Raising teacher effectiveness through support for innovative induction programs to bridge the gap between pre-service and career teaching, focusing on providing structured and intensive support to new teachers and leaders.
  • Increasing the pipeline of effective educators by developing local capacity through Grow Your Own Teacher programs in rural regions to increase the workforce, especially in high-need subject areas.
  • Developing or expanding charter schools that are focused on STEM education to improve the level of STEM instruction in the state and direct students toward in-demand, high-tech careers.    

Georgia was awarded $400 million to implement its RT3 reform plan in August 2010. The state’s application was prepared with extensive input from education stakeholders and members of the business and philanthropic communities, who helped develop the idea to include the Innovation Fund in the state’s application. As interest in the Innovation Fund grows, the state will seek contributions from philanthropic organizations, nonprofits and businesses as a continuing source of start-up capital for promising innovations.

Deal has also reserved money to support equipment and facility costs for charter schools focused on the delivery of STEM education.

“We applaud Governor Deal’s commitment to ensuring that the children of Georgia have more opportunities for a quality education through Georgia’s RT3 plan,” said Georgia Charter Schools Association CEO Tony Roberts. “We are especially gratified that the Governor is investing in charter schools with a STEM focus across the state.  Even in such tough economic times, this initiative underscores our Governor’s commitment to raise the bar for student achievement in Georgia.”

The state will use the Innovation Fund to determine best practices in innovative programming related to STEM education, applied learning and teacher and leader recruitment and development to influence future education policy efforts.  At the core of the Innovation Fund is the following theory:  IF, public and private organizations are encouraged by financial resources, policy environments and supportive operating conditions, THEN, the State of Georgia will be benefit from a stronger commitment from diverse stakeholders to support and advance K-12 public education, the ability to replicate innovative practices with a demonstrated record of success, and ultimately, improved outcomes for students.

The Innovation Fund Request for Proposal may be accessed on the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget website.

The Race to the Top fund is a $4 billion grant opportunity provided in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to support new approaches to improve schools. The fund was made available in the form of competitive grants to encourage and reward states that are creating conditions for education innovation and reform, specifically implementing ambitious plans in four education reform areas:

  • Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
  • Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
  • Recruiting, preparing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
  • Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.

Georgia’s reform plan focuses on strengthening traditional and alternative preparation programs for teachers and leaders, supporting teachers more effectively in the classroom, evaluating teachers and leaders with consistent and objective criteria, rewarding great teachers and leaders with performance-based salary increases, and more effectively using data to inform decision-making, among other things.