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Ed commish: Clock is ticking on Race to Top; FEA still opposed

Education commissioner Eric Smith, speaking this morning to the Senate K-12 committee, said the "ticker tape" is running on Florida's efforts to secure federal Race to the Top funding.

Midnight tonight is the deadline for districts to submit signed memos of understanding to signal they want to participate, and on Friday Gov. Charlie Crist is scheduled to sign the application Friday so that it gets to Washington, D.C. by the Jan. 19 deadline.

Smith said less than 10 states probably will be rewarded during the first round of awards. Florida is seeking $1.1 billion, but his pursuit of the money comes amid resistance from unions and some educators. So far only 27 of the 67 school districts have sent in their applications, Smith said, and lack of broad support could hurt the state's chances for getting the "highly competitive" money.

"We have not been able to get support from the FEA (Florida Education Association)," Smith told commissioners, adding that the school boards and superintendents associations do support the federal award program.

But Smith said the federal standards and emphasis are consistent with Florida's policy direction.

"We find this highly consistent with legislation that this body has enacted in the past," he said. "If Florida had written this, it would look very similar to this."