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Kentucky Again Finalist For Federal Education Money

For a second time, Kentucky is a finalist for federal Race to the Top education reform dollars.

Kentucky is one of 19 states and the District of Columbia named finalists for Race to the Top funding.

The others are Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

All are vying for a share of $3 billion, with Kentucky standing to gain $175 million. Tennessee and Delaware, which won the first round, split $600 million.

Possibly working against Kentucky in the second round is the lack of charter schools, which lawmakers failed to approve in the 2010 General Assembly, despite pleas from Education Commissioner Terry Holliday.

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Local News

Race to the Top Recipients to be Decided in August

by Kentucky Public Radio’s Tony McVeigh

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says the state will learn in early August if it’s a finalist in its second bid for federal Race to the Top dollars. Tennessee and Delaware won the first round of the education innovation and reform initiative.

Holliday remains cautiously optimistic, but says the lack of charter schools in Kentucky’s application probably hurt.

“I think we’re probably in the 12 to 15 range,” says Holliday, “and it depends on any large states that might get funding as to how far they’ll get. I think there are a minimum of ten funded. It might go up to 15. We might squeak in on the bottom end.”

Charter schools legislation failed to emerge from this year’s regular legislative session, and wasn’t on the agenda of last month’s special session on the budget. Charter schools are publicly funded, but are freed from some state regulations in exchange for greater accountability.

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Kentucky's Second Race to the Top Application Submitted Today

by Stephanie Crosby

The Kentucky Department of Education is submitting the state’s new application for federal Race to the Top dollars today. A new aspect of the application is a provision that would tie teacher evaluations – in part – to student achievement.

Spokesperson Lisa Gross says the Race to the Top program wants to see progress in student achievement.

“In order to gauge student achievement, we have to have things in place like tests and accountability programs and so forth,” says Gross, “and Race to the Top also puts the responsibility for raising student achievement on the grown-ups, on teachers, on administrators.”

Gross says Kentucky could receive up to $175-million in this round of Race to the Top. In the first round, only two states received awards.

She says Kentucky missed out on the first round because of its lack of charter schools. That still hasn’t been addressed in the most recent application, because the General Assembly hasn’t changed state law to allow such schools.

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

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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Arts and Humanities Local News

Advocates Want State to Include Arts Ed in Application

Arts advocates in Kentucky are encouraging citizens to request that arts education be addressed in the state’s application for a federal grant. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

Arts Kentucky is asking stakeholders in education — from parents to business people — to participate in a survey recently put out by the state’s Department of Education. The survey is intended to get feedback on ideas the state is considering in its application for some of the $4 billion offered under the federal Race to the Top fund.

Arts Kentucky’s David Cupps says each state has to cite specifically how it wants to use the funds.

“In order to actually get money that can be applied toward arts programs, the state has to include that in their proposal.So, we’re trying to encourage people to let the state know that the arts are important to them in the educational system,” Cupps says. “We believe that arts is an integral part of having effective educational systems and especially in getting kids to be more creative and preparing them for the workforce of tomorrow.”

Cupps says the funding could help ensure arts education is assessed at schools statewide in the wake of Senate Bill 1 passed last spring. The legislation to revamp Kentucky’s student testing system requires the state to assess arts programs at schools.

The U.S. Department of Education has set its first deadline in December for applying states. It expects to award the first round of funds in early 2010. The department also had another dealine for states in the late Spring of 2010, with awards slated for September.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Group Launches Events for Charter School Legislation

An event next week will be the first of many planned to build support to establish charter schools in Kentucky. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

Several Louisville pastors with the Kentucky Education Restoration Alliance have been working with Republican Rep. Brad Montell of Shelbyville. This month, Montell filed a bill to allow charter schools in the state. Rep. Stan Lee of Lexington filed a similar bill in July. Charter schools use public money but are run by groups outside the public education system.

The alliance is bringing Virginia Walden Ford to speak in Louisville on Nov. 6. Ford is executive director of DC Parents for School Choice in Washington.

Montell says charters create competition in urban areas like Louisville, which has failing schools under the No Child Left Behind policy.

“Kentucky needs to be innovative in our approach to education and right now we almost live in a vacuum,” Montell says. “The education establishment sort of creates a one-size-fits-all education model and we have to break free from that.”

Montell says he consulted with the Kentucky Education Restoration Alliance before drafting the legislation.

“The biggest need for charter schools are in our inner cities,” he says. “In Louisville, for example, we have a number of schools that are failing our families and our students.”

Montell also says charter schools do not have to work with teachers’ unions.

“It allows for flexibility — whether it’s flexibility in the length of the day or in the teaching method,” he says. “Many [charter] schools have gone to a merit pay type of structure for teachers so that we reward the teachers as they achieve.”

Montell says Kentucky needs charter schools to compete for $4 billion in grants through the federal government’s Race to the Top fund. City and state education leaders say they doubt the need for charter schools based on their mixed performance nationally and the reform efforts already underway across the state and in Louisville.