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|RT3 budget proposal released|
LESS THAN HALF OF LOUISIANA SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO PARTICIPATE
Forty states and the District of Columbia have submitted applications to receive more than $4 billion in federal grants through the Race to the Top initiative, but the Franklin Parish School System will not be among them.
The program is a federal endeavor to encourage schools systems to reform their current curricular to fit a more results-based system of teacher evaluation and student performance.
Applications have been submitted for 29 school districts (which operate 18 charter schools) and 56 independent charter districts in Louisiana for $314 million of the grant money.
Should Louisiana receive the requested $314 million, the state department of education would receive half of the total awarded to participating school district.
"If the districts get $1 million dollars, the state department gets $500,000," Johnson told the board during the January regular meeting of the Franklin Parish School Board.
"As a superintendent, you look for ways to improve academics," Johnson said. "We had the highest growth in the state last year and all of our schools hit their growth target."
The board voted against the measure at their January meeting. With a roll-call vote, members unanimously opted not to participate in the Race to the Top competition.
"There's just a lot of question about where the money is going," Johnson said. "I just don't feel like it's the right thing for us at this time.
A budget for the RT3 program recently posted Jan. 25 on the Department of Education website outlines specific costs associated with enacting the required reforms in Louisiana schools.
The proposed budget lists nine areas in which the funds would be dedicated over four years. Project areas total $157,496,663 and range from contracting a reform team to educator measurement.
The foundation of the reform is a number of specialized staff members contracted to execute the plan. More than $15.6 million of the budget is allotted for the hiring of some 80 specialty personnel to oversee the projects, including a contract with Michael Fullan for $1.6 million to for district capacity building. Fullan is an educational advisor to State Supt. Paul Pastorek.
School officials across the state have expressed concern over the implementation of a program that local districts may not be able to maintain after the four-year term of the grant expires. In that case, the bill would fall to the taxpayer.
"From everything I've read, Louisiana is first in line to receive the grant money," Johnson said, "But it really boggles my mind at how many staff members the state department plans to hire and the amount of money it will take. Every superintendent in the state received this budget, and I don't think they are feeling real good about it."
Applications will be analyzed and Education Secretary Arnie Duncan will be presented rank-ordered results. The states with the best entries will be asked to make a presentation to his office some time in March.
Some school officials worry that the federal initiative is another way for school policy decisions to be taken from local and state control to become matters of federal oversight. The money is an enticing offer for cash-strapped schools to participate, though the plan does not address how the local districts will financially sustain the program after the grant money is depleted.
It has been reported by the news media that the initiative is a sign of education reforms of the future, specifically, privatization.