January 4 — 6:24 pm, 2012

Race to the Top funds: No budgetary relief

The promise of federal Race to the Top funds awarded to Pennsylvania late last month represents a shadow of its former self.

On December 23, the state announced that it received a $41.3 million federal grant under that initiative, with a major focus on improving teacher and principal evaluation. The grant is to be disbursed over four years, with half of the money going to Pennsylvania school districts and half going to the state.

In other words, Race to the Top will enable the state to disburse an average of less than $6 million annually statewide over the next four years – no great boon to city schools.

Compare that to the hopes in July 2010 when Pennsylvania was in the running for $400 million from the first round of Race to the Top funds, and the Ackerman administration was looking for as much as $100 million of that to come to city schools. Pennsylvania was a finalist in that round, but its application was ultimately turned down.

State Department of Education spokesperson Tim Eller said that budgetary relief for financially struggling school districts "is not the intent of the grant."

"This grant will be used for specific Race to the Top initiatives that the Department spelled out in the grant application," Eller said.

District spokesperson Fernando Gallard said the District has not yet received any details about the competitive process for awarding the grants.

"We are definitely going to be applying," Gallard said.

Besides the focus on teacher and principal evaluation, Pennsylvania’s grant will help support the Pennsylvania Standards Aligned System and increased online curricular offerings, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math.

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