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Kentucky Receives $17 Million in Federal Funding for Education Programs

Kentucky has been awarded $17 million in federal Race to the Top funding for public education.

Kentucky originally requested $175 million from the U.S. Department of Education. Officials say while the $17 million award is substantially less, it’s still appreciated.

Kentucky Department of Education spokeswoman Lisa Gross says some of the money will be used to expand Advance Kentucky, an initiative that works to increase high school students’ access to Advanced Placement courses.

The rest of the grant will help the state implement the provisions of Senate Bill 1. Gross says the bill, passed in 2009, requires the state’s public schools to develop a new system of assessment and accountability.

“It’s a very broad-reaching bill,” she said. “It requires us to implement new standards and new tests and so there’s a lot of work that needs to be done to fully implement the bill. We’re on track to implement, but we still have work to do to fully implement it.”

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Kentucky Awarded “Race to the Top” Funds

From the Associated Press

Kentucky education officials say they are excited about being awarded $17 million in federal “Race to the Top” funding to improve K-12 programs.

Although the award was less than requested, Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says the funding will be used to implement initiatives including new assessments for public schools, more rigorous academic standards and an expansion of a statewide math-science initiative. Kentucky had asked for $175 million in federal funding.

The Education Department announced today that Kentucky is one of seven states to win a share of $200 million in federal “Race to the Top” funds. It was Kentucky’s fourth attempt to secure funds from the program.

The Obama administration has awarded billions of dollars in such competitions to encourage changes in education that it favors.

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Kentucky Tries Again For Race To The Top Grant

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) expects to hear this week whether the state will be awarded a Race to the Top consolation grant.

KDE learned last week that it will not receive any of the $500 million of federal funding for early childhood education. Kentucky is now one of seven states, which have failed to win a grant in the first two phases that will potentially share some of the $200 million available in phase three, said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman with the Kentucky Department of Education.

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Kentucky Denied For Early Childhood Race To The Top Grant

Kentucky will not receive any of the $500 million available from the federal Race to the Top program for early childhood education.

Thirty-five states and two territories applied for the grant earlier this year and nine finalists were announced Friday, Kentucky not among them.

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Local News Politics

Kentucky Moves Forward With Race to the Top Application

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has taken steps to apply for federal education grants from the Race to the Top program.

The commonwealth is eligible for a portion of the $500 million that will be made available later this year. Like the previous round of Race to the Top grants, states must put together lengthy applications for the money.

Kentucky made sweeping changes to school assessments as part of its application for the first round of grants in 2009, but did not receive any money.

The new funds are meant to improve early childhood education. Beshear has appointed a 26-member Early Childhood Advisory Council that will help put together the application.

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Local News Politics

Kentucky to Seek More Race to the Top Dollars

Kentucky will once again compete for federal Race to the Top dollars for education.

The money is part of an effort to funnel $500 million in early learning programs. Grants of $50 to $100 million will be awarded later this year, and today, state officials announced they will apply for funds.

The state previously changed education assessment standards to compete for prior Race to the Top grants. The new grants may not require such strong action.

“Given that the governor’s Transforming Education in Kentucky Task Force has early childhood education as one of its main priorities in its final report, I would think that this is something we as a state agency and also lawmakers and policymakers are going to be looking very closely at,” says Department of Education spokeswoman Lisa Gross.

Kentucky did not receive any money in the previous round of federal grants. Gross says it’s yet not clear what the state will have to do or prove to qualify for the funds, but details are expected later this summer.

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Center On Education Policy Says Race To The Top Reforms Will Take Time To Show Results

A new study from the Center on Education Policy says the momentum toward improving public education that started with the federal Race to the Top program is in danger of dying.

In the last two years, many states passed education reforms to better compete for Race to the Top grants which came from the federal stimulus package. And now that stimulus money is no longer available, reforms may go unfunded and lawmakers may not be motivated to enact further changes.

But CEP president Jack Jennings says lawmakers shouldn’t be discouraged. He says schools will improve along with the economy…if lawmakers keep the reforms in place.

“The state governments are going through that debate right now and local school districts are too. By continuing to work on these reforms, even with little money in hand, hopefully they’ve laid the groundwork for future success,” he says.

Jennings says lawmakers should be looking for ways to insulate education funding from the ups and downs of the national economy.

The Kentucky General Assembly passed school assessment reforms in 2009 in part to compete for Race to the Top dollars. Those changes take effect next fall.

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In Depth: Officials React To "Race To The Top" Exclusion

Reaction was swift to word that Kentucky has again failed to snare federal Race to the Top dollars. 

Audio MP3

In mid-January, lawmakers were rushing to approve Kentucky’s Race to the Top application.  That’s a federal stimulus program pitting states against each other for $4 billion in school improvement funds. 

Republican leaders in the legislature wanted Kentucky’s application to include charter schools, but a bill to that effect died on a tie vote in Senate committee.  Casting the deciding vote against charter schools was Republican Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr of Lexington.

“I just felt like it was time that we didn’t need to be looking into which districts were going to come onboard with this, and which ones were not,” said Kerr. 

Charter schools are publicly funded, but are freed from some state regulations in exchange for greater accountability.  Despite omitting them from its application, Kentucky became a first round finalist in the Race to the Top.  But in March, the Obama Administration announced only two states – Tennessee and Delaware – would share $600 million.  That left another $3.4 billion for states to fight over. 

In May, with a second federal deadline looming, Gov. Beshear summoned lawmakers to Frankfort for a special session on the budget.  Democratic Rep. Harry Moberly of Richmond was among lawmakers urging Beshear to add charter schools to the agenda. 

“Which would get us about $175 million, not to mention the $300 or $400 million that’s available through private foundations,” said Moberly.

But the governor balked, saying there was no general agreement on the issue.

“We also want to try to make this special session as short as possible,” said Beshear.

But again, with charter schools still absent, Kentucky emerged a finalist in the Race to the Top.  However, when the second round’s ten winners were announced, Kentucky was not on the list.

“We got zero points for charter schools, so we were at a 32 point deficit even before the judging began,” said state Education Commissioner Terry Holliday (pictured).

“That’s kind of what I’ve been telling everybody – that this particular pot of money did require charter school legislation,” said Holliday.

Senate President David Williams is disappointed with Kentucky’s failed effort, and plans to keep fighting for charter schools.

“In extremely difficult economic times that money would have been very useful in implementation of Senate Bill 1 – and in order to make sure that we address some of the pressing education issues that we have in the state,” said Williams.

But Sharon Oxendine of the Kentucky Education Association has no regrets over the group’s opposition to charter schools.  She says Kentucky schools already include charter school concepts, thanks to the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act.

“They’re autonomous,” said Oxendine.  “They’re in charge of their own hiring.  They’re in charge of their own budgets.  Teachers are certified.  They are accountable.  So, we think site-based council rule, or governing, in the State of Kentucky is far better than charter schools.”

Congressional support for a third round of Race to the Top funding is questionable, and without federal prodding, small, rural states like Kentucky may be less inclined to approve charter schools.  So, is the charter school issue dead in Kentucky?  Gov. Beshear.

“I don’t think so,” said Beshear.  “I think that’s an issue that will be discussed in the future.  And as I’ve said, I think if it’s used properly, it can be a useful tool.”

So, while the debate over charter schools continues to rage in Kentucky – Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia are deciding how to spend $3.4 billion.

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Local News

Kentucky Misses Out On Race To Top Dollars Again

Kentucky education officials are assessing what went wrong with the state’s second Race to the Top application.  Kentucky has again been denied federal funds.

In March, Tennessee and Delaware were awarded a total of $600 million for education improvements.  Now, school districts in nine more states and the District of Columbia will share another $3.4 billion.  Apparently, Kentucky’s application for federal funding was lacking one vital component. 

“We got zero points for charter schools.  So, we were at a 32-point deficit even before the judging began,” says Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday.  “We kind of anticipated that.  That’s kind of what I’ve been telling everybody – that this particular pot of money did require charter school legislation.”

Legislation to include charter schools in Kentucky’s Race to the Top application died in the 2010 General Assembly.

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In Depth: Kentucky Vying For More Education Funds

Kentucky received encouraging news this week regarding its second bid for federal Race to the Top dollars. But some say the state’s application still may be lacking in one key area.

Click below to hear the story:

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In the early days of the 2010 General Assembly, state lawmakers rushed to approve Kentucky’s application for federal Race to the Top dollars. The $4 billion program provides states with hefty, financial incentives to improve persistently, low-achieving schools. The legislature’s Republican leaders wanted Kentucky’s application to include charter schools, but a bill to that effect quickly died in the Senate Education Committee. The deciding vote was cast by Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington.

“It seems like the media always speculates that we have to vote rank and file,” said Kerr. “But actually, we don’t! We have minds of our own and we are able to vote what we feel is best for this state as a whole, but also for our district.”

The vote pleased House Education Committee Chairman Carl Rollins, D-Midway, who’s not a big fan of charter schools. Charter schools are publicly funded, but are freed from some state regulations in exchange for greater accountability.

“In 17 percent of the cases, the students do better in charter schools,” said Rollins. “In 37 percent of the cases, they do worse than they would in public schools. And in 46 percent of the cases, there’s no significant difference.”

The next day, after Kentucky’s Race to the Top application received unanimous House and Senate approval, Gov. Beshear signed the document in ceremonies at the State Capitol.

“Here we are already celebrating what happens when political parties and personalities are set aside to work together on the policies that help the people of this state,” said Beshear.

That was in mid-January. In March, Kentucky learned it was one of 16 finalists in the Race to the Top competition. But in April, Tennessee and Delaware were declared the first-round winners and awarded $600 million. In May, with a second Race to the Top deadline looming, Gov. Beshear prepared to call a special session on the state’s budget impasse. He pondered whether charter schools should also be on the agenda.

“We’re all interested in getting $175 million of federal money to help improve our education system,” said Beshear. “So, I want to explore this issue to see if there is any room to move in that direction.”

But when the call for the special session was issued, charter schools were not on the agenda. Despite the omission, Kentucky – along with 17 other states and the District of Columbia – was again named a finalist in the Race to the Top.

“I think it’s good news that our application is still very strong,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday (pictured). “And we get to go and make our case, and they’ll probably pick 12 out of the 19 for actual funding.”

But Holliday still wishes Kentucky’s application contained charter schools.

“We’re just going to have to do the best we can and really do a great presentation when we go to D.C., and try to overcome the charter school issue because schools and school systems in Kentucky sure need this shot in the arm right now,” said Holliday.

Next month, Holliday travels to Washington to reinforce the state’s bid for Race to the Top dollars. And remarks made by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as Duncan announced the 19 finalists, may bode well for Kentucky. While calling for cooperation between education reformers and unions, Duncan made it clear charter schools are not a panacea for all that ails public schools.

“If unions were the only problem, then in all of our Right to Work states and all of our charter schools, they’d be outperforming the nation, and we know that’s not the case,” Duncan told the National Press Club in Washington.

States that prevail in the second, and possibly final round of Race to the Top, will split $3.4 billion. The winners will be announced in September.