USC considers 'adaptive reuse'

Proposed changes to the University of South Carolina's master plan call for the Carolina Coliseum to be converted to space that can be used for academics.

WASHINGTON -- Seven states won a share of $200 million in federal "Race to the Top" money to improve K-12 education programs, the Education Department announced Thursday.

The winners are Arizona, $25.1 million; Colorado, $17.9 million; Illinois, $42.8 million; Kentucky, $17 million; Louisiana, $17.5 million; Pennsylvania, $41.3 million; and New Jersey, $37.9 million.

Two other states, South Carolina and California, also were eligible.

South Carolina opted not to compete, while California submitted an incomplete application, the Education Department said.

S.C. Education Superintendent Mick Zais has come under fire for refusing to apply for the Race to the Top and Ed Jobs funds.

Jay Ragley, deputy superintendent for legislative and public affairs at the state Department of Education, said those programs required "significant financial commitments of state dollars, and in the case of Race to the Top, would become an unfunded federal mandate after the one-time federal funds were exhausted."

Critics have said that Zais is allowing the federal money, generated in part by South Carolinians' income tax dollars, to go to other states.

The Obama administration has awarded billions of dollars in such competitions to encourage changes in education that it favors. The seven states competing in this round were runners-up last year, and the Education Department has said it wants to encourage them to finish and carry out many of the changes proposed in their earlier applications.

Competing states committed to make changes such as improving principal and teacher evaluation systems and turning around under-performing schools.

They also were asked to show specifically how they would improve science, technology, engineering and math instruction.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the money was driving dramatic improvements.

"We've had broken teacher-evaluation systems in many places, unfortunately for five, or six or seven decades," Duncan said. "You've seen more effort there and more movement in a short amount of time than in a long time prior to that, and many states are using Race to the Top resources to do that."

Last week, nine states were announced as winners of a share of $500 million in grants under a similar competition focused on improving early learning programs.