Dept. of Education's $650 Million Stimulus

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Department of Education is looking to give innovative school districts and non-profit organizations a share of $650 million in education stimulus money now available in a new fund, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Tuesday.

"There are many, many great ideas out there," Duncan told reporters on a conference call announcing his department's Investing in Innovation fund.

This newest pot of education stimulus money will be allocated directly to local districts -- not through state education departments -- with the money going to districts that either have a program that is working and needs to be expanded, or have a new idea that needs to be developed.

To be eligible for the money from the fund, which is also known as the i3 Fund, districts must have at least a 20 percent private-sector match, and must prove that their program will remain sustainable after the federal government funding ends.

Additionally, the programs concepts need to be transferable to other districts. Duncan said his department wants to take good ideas from the local level and apply them to other localities that may benefit from the innovations.

At the same time, Duncan added that the department would be free to pull funding from programs that are not meeting their goals.

"We realize that new and innovative ideas don't always work," he said.

The money for the i3 Fund is expected to be allocated by September 2010.

A 30-day public comment period opened on Tuesday. Those who wish to comment can do so on the U.S. Department of Education Web site at

The i3 Fund is separate from Race to the Top, which is also funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The $4.35 billion Race to the Top fund is to be allocated to states that meet certain criteria like internationally benchmarked standards and turning round low performing schools.

The Department of Education is currently processing more than 4,000 comments it received during the comment period for the Race to the Top regulations. Officials expect to have the final regulations in place this fall, so that they can receive applications during the winter months.

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