Kentucky-In; Indiana-Out for Race to the Top Funds

by ekramer on March 4, 2010

Kentucky was on the list of 16 finalists the U.S. Department of Education announced today in the running for more than $4 billion in Race to the Top funds. But Indiana is out. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan made the announcement Thursday and said the department would interview representatives from the 16 finalists in mid March and announce the eventual winners in April.

Kentucky has applied for $200 million in Race to the Top funds. Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says his department is already preparing for its presentation.

“What we’re doing is trying to make sure that we have all the right team members,” Holliday says. “And we’re looking at all the other applications and saying, what’s different about Kentucky that we can make sure to reinforce at the presentation, and just making sure that we have good, clear deployment plans ready to go to work.”

Holliday says the state’s application included a lot of work that is already underway.

“We have a very comprehensive reform package that was led pretty much by our reform legislation in 2009 called Senate Bill 1,” he says. “And it pretty much mirrored exactly what Race to the Top was looking for.”

Last year, the Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1 to revamp the state’s K-12 education system.

Some political observers and education experts had doubted that Kentucky would make the cut given that it doesn’t have a law allowing charter schools. Holliday says he didn’t see that as an obstacle.

“Our Kentucky Reform Act of 1990 actually created 1.200 charter schools in Kentucky,” he says. “All of our schools have site-based councils that are composed of parents and they make curriculum decisions. They hire the principal. We could find nothing that a charter school does that our site-based councils couldn’t already do.”

Holliday says the news is encouraging at a time when education is facing budget cuts.

Indiana, however, did not make the cut. Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett says he got the news via e-mail and Twitter messages. He says it was disappointing, especially after the state worked to meet criteria the federal education department gave states that applied. It included having charter schools and policies linking student data to teacher evaluations.

Bennett says the news doesn’t mean the Indiana plan is dead.

“We have told school corporations across the state of Indiana that we will implement this reform plan whether we are funded or not,” he says. “And the fact is we don’t believe money will solve the problem. What will solve the problem is for us to have the political courage, the political will to truly reform education in this state and we’re going to implement our reform agenda as we have planned.”

Bennett says he’s not sure how Indiana will handle its application in a second contest for funds due in June.

“We’re going to wait and see what we get back from the federal government, what feedback we get back from our technical advisors,” he says. “Obviously our interests will always be to pursue this reform money, but again, I’ll always back that up and say I don’t believe this is about money.”

Nearby states also on the list include Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois.

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