Many people wondered how Nathan Deal would manage Georgia"s Race to the Top educational program when he became governor in January.
Deal said during one debate last year that he would not accept federal funds for the competitive grant program, then backtracked hours later.
Last week, Deal announced -- with little media attention -- that he would create a fund through Race to the Top for schools and organizations that "develop or implement innovative and high-impact programs” producing positive results for students.
A news release said the fund would contain $19.3 million. The state will seek contributions from philanthropic organizations, nonprofits and businesses as start-up money for those innovations.
Race to the Top is a $4 billion federal grant program started in 2009 under President Barack Obama"s stimulus act. It rewards states that are making significant strides in education. Georgia won $400 million in August.
Political leaders here have been divided on Race to the Top. At an August debate in the runoff for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Deal said he opposed Race to the Top because he believed the federal government would require all states in the program to use a standard curriculum, which he opposes, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. He also said it could hinder the state's ability to create a "pay for performance" plan that rewards teachers whose students excel.
The Deal camp was also worried Georgia may have to fully fund it if federal funding ran out. Campaign spokesman Brian Robinson compared it to a drug dealer who gives a user his first fix for free.
"Then they"ve got you hooked and you play by their rules,” Robinson told the AJC.
Hours later, Deal said he misspoke. Deal said he talked to several longtime friends who are educators who said most of his fears about the program were unfounded.
Last month, Deal told state school members at their retreat that Race to the Top puts Georgia "on the cusp of great things.” Georgia was given an extension to submit a statewide Race to the Top plan. Its plan has not been approved, a state education official said Tuesday.
With Deal"s announcement last week, the governor has shown a commitment to using a portion of Race to the Top funds. We rate this campaign promise as In The Works.