Fenty logs a win in the 'Race to the Top'

adrian fenty michelle rhee
Adrian Fenty and Michelle Rhee during the first day of school this week. (Photo: Jay Westcott)

In the mayoral race to the top, today's winner seems to be Adrian Fenty.


Long story short

In the mayoral race to the top, today's winner seems to be Adrian Fenty.


Oh sure, D.C.'s public schools, which will receive a slice of the $4.35 billion federal "Race to the Top" funding, are also big winners in the Department of Education's school reform grant competition. Politically speaking, though, the award provides a boost to the Fenty campaign, which is hoping the mayor's emphasis on education reform and his strong support of DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee will pay off on primary day next month.

The Education Department on Tuesday announced that nine states and the District won the funding, and the win could indeed be seen as an endorsement of Rhee's dramatic and often controversial changes, and by extension, Fenty's decisions as mayor.

"I think this is very, very much their seal of approval in certifying the D.C. for school reform and education reform," Fenty campaign spokesman Sean Madigan says. "They are saying that we are at the very vanguard of education reform. Not only are they commending us for that but they're also putting their money where their mouth is, which is going to be enormously helpful in the years going forward."

But not so fast on basking in the funding glow, says D.C. Council Chairman Vince Gray, Fenty's main opponent in the Sept. 14 Democratic primary for mayor. Gray has dodged questions about whether he would retain Rhee as chancellor, but has said he would support a strong chancellor.

Gray campaign spokeswoman Traci Hughes disagreed that the grant is an approval of Rhee's and Fenty's approach, and says the reform measures in place at District schools aren't sustainable.

"I think Chairman Gray has acknowledged that some improvements have been made," Hughes says. "He supported reform from the beginning, but there's more that must be done."

Fenty, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Rhee are expected to speak about the grant at a press conference on Tuesday evening.

"Our message is that our top priority, our number one goal for the last four years and continuing on for the next four years is to fix our schools," says Madigan. "And I think that we've tried to show and demonstrate to voters that we find this to be the most important thing that we can possibly do. And we just hope that recognition like this today strengthens that claim in their minds."

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