HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - 35 states, plus the district of Columbia applied. Hawaii is among the 19 chosen as Race to the Top finalists. Education leaders say it's a sign, the state is making strides in reforming the public school system. Hawaii schools are in the running.
"We made it through furloughs, it was a challenge, it was not a good thing it was not a happy time but we did it," said Interim Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.
Just last March, the Department of Education was denied race to the top funds in round one. Now in round two, with furlough Fridays gone, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Tuesday, Hawaii is among the finalists.
"There's also money for new charter schools and other innovative learning models and there're also funds for states to develop better data systems lastly, $350 million in Race to the Top funds are set aside for groups of states to develop new, more comprehensive assessments. All told $10 billion is going out in the coming weeks to support education reform driven at the local level," said Duncan.
"Over the past year, the focus on public education in our state has strengthened Hawaii's commitment and responsibility to its students. With Hawaii selection as a finalist, we are one step closer to maximizing the opportunities for our public school system," said Interim Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi.
Race to the Top is designed to help troubled schools. The D.O.E is now working on a strategy to prove that Hawaii is the best in the nation at raising the bar on education.
"I am glad to see that the State of Hawaii is still in contention for federal grants that will supply Hawaii with much-needed resources to reform our public schools and better serve our community," said Congressman Charles Djou.
The finalists will head to the nation's capital the week of August 9th. They'll pitch their education plans to a panel of judges. Winners will be announced in September.