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Costly Grants

Educators at Longfellow Elementary School in Waterloo, Iowa, have worked hard to raise achievement of at-risk students.

When time came to resubmit a proposal for a $200,000 state grant, which they had received each of the past six years, they came up with a plan to infuse more developmental activities into the kindergarten program, provide more professional development for teachers, and buy instructional materials.

But budget cuts last year left the 11,000-student Waterloo district without a grant writer, leaving staff members to dot all the i's and cross all the t's. Once they completed the proposal they copied it in triplicate and sent it to the state late last year. But they were one copy short of the number required by the state, and the simple clerical error left them out of the running for funding.

"Some of my teachers questioned why the state couldn't just make another copy," Principal Christina Windsor said in an interview. "But I have to bite the bullet. I made the mistake, but they know the needs of our children." Most of the school's 330 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

Ms. Windsor and her staff are applying for other grants to make up the funding difference.

Equal for All

Worried that longstanding single-sex leadership programs are inequitable, the Vermont House and Senate recently passed resolutions warning the state's American Legion that they will be keeping an eye on the group's programs for high school juniors to make sure they comply with federal civil rights laws.

The Boys' State program, run by Vermont's American Legion chapter, uses volunteer high school government teachers to teach its students about the basic workings of government.

But critics of the Girls' State program, which is run by the American Legion Auxiliary, say it fails to provide an equitable experience because it uses volunteers who are not necessarily teachers, but just whoever happens to volunteer.

Rep. Karen B. Kitzmiller, a Democrat and former Girls' State volunteer, led a campaign in the House to deny Girls' State use of the Statehouse. In an interview, she described the girls' program as "woefully inadequate." It uses volunteers with little knowledge of the workings of government who merely push their views on patriotism, she asserted.

Her bill was defeated after some legislators argued that the Statehouse should be kept open to all state residents.


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