The U.S. Department of Education is awarding $25 million in Race to the Top funds to Arizona, it was announced early Friday.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal and Gov. Jan Brewer made the announcement.
"I am extremely pleased and encouraged by Arizona being awarded this money to further our state's educational goals of creating highly effective classroom learning environments for our students," Huppenthal stated in the news release. "We are excited to have been provided additional funds that will benefit our schools all across the state and improve our capabilities to prepare students to become college and career ready by the time they graduate."
The funds come in the third round of the federal program. States submitted applications each time. This is the first time Arizona is being awarded funds.
Six other states -- Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania -- will join Arizona in receiving a share of the $200 million in the third round of Race to the Top funds to advance reforms aimed at improving student achievement, according to the U.S. Department of Education website.
As runners-up in last year's competitions, nine states were eligible for round three awards to invest in a portion of their round two plans. South Carolina opted out and California submitted an incomplete application.
Arizona plans to use the funds to build a data system that will create a uniform way of tracking students' progress and give a clearer picture of how schools are doing.
Half of the grant funding will be devoted to use by local school districts and charter schools.
A portion of the dollars also will be devoted to the advancement of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education, which businesses consider key to Arizona's future economy.
"A top-flight education system is critical to a working economy," Brewer said in the release. "This funding will play an important role as Arizona sets higher standards for its students and teachers, and strives to provide the information that parents need in order to make informed decisions about their children's education."
Congress recently passed an omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2012 that includes an additional $550 million for Race to the Top, according to the U.S. Department of Education website.
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Michelle Reese, East Valley Tribune