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Stalled Efforts in the Race to the Top

Chion Wolf

State education officials plan to submit Connecticut’s grant application for next Race to the Top competition this week. But as the federal government shutdown drags on, state-level officials have no one to answer questions about the federal requirements. Ninety-four percent of the employees at the U.S. Department of Education are on furlough.

"The lights are on, but nobody's home." Andy Fleischmann

Representative Andy Fleischmann, who chairs Connecticut’s Education Committee, said, "It’s a pretty sad state of affairs for the U.S. Department of Education and a lot of other federal departments. The lights are on, but nobody’s home. And that sounds kind of funny unless you’re busy preparing a 300-page application, and you have questions, and there is no one who can provide an answer."

Fleischmann said in the past, federal education employees have allowed state-level officials to call their cell phones with questions. "So it's possible to actually reach the human being," Fleischmann said. "But that person is not permitted to answer any questions relating to their job, because they’re on furlough. And to make it even more ludicrous, once this shutdown ends, the folks who have been put on furlough are going to receive their back pay."

The deadline to submit the next Race to the Top applications is Wednesday. This round of grants will support states’ efforts to expand access to early learning for disadvantaged children.

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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