WASHINGTON - School experts from across the country grilled South Carolina public education leaders Tuesday on its capacity to use $300 million in new federal funding to implement cutting-edge reforms that other states would follow.
Among 16 finalists for the Race to the Top grants, South Carolina and Florida were the first two states to face panels of five nationally known education experts in 90-minute interviews in Washington.
"The reviewers were obviously conversant with our proposal," state Education Superintendent Jim Rex said after the interview. "They obviously liked much of what they saw, but they were focused on clarification questions as well as trying to reaffirm that South Carolina indeed would have the capacity for reforming public education in the nation if we are indeed funded."
South Carolina requested $300 million in a 1,251-page application and was chosen as a finalist March 4 along with North Carolina, 13 other states and the District of Columbia.
U.S. Education Department employees say three or four winners will be chosen early next month to receive a total of about $2 billion in the flagship grants.