Tenn. May Ask for Up to $500 Million in Fed. Grants

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Tennessee may submit an application for as much as $500 million in federal "Race to the Top" money.

Gov. Phil Bredesen has called for a special legislative session in January to change education laws needed for Tennessee to qualify for a share of the $4.35 billion available to states that submit plans to reform K-12 education.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported Wednesday that the state would be asking for twice the amount suggested by the U.S. Department of Education.

States are divided into five competitive categories for funding, based on student populations. Tennessee is in a category for grants ranging between $150 and $250 million.

The ranges are considered "blueprints to guide states as they think through their budgets, but states may prepare budgets that are above or below the ranges specified," according to the federal education department Web site.

"We want all states to put forth the most progressive education reform plan, put their best plan forward, and we're going to judge those applications on the merits, no matter what the dollar figure," U.S. Department of Education spokesman Justin Hamilton told the newspaper.

Tennessee Education Department spokeswoman Rachel Woods said the final figure could change by the time applications for the funding are due on Jan. 19.

"They want applications to really push the bar in terms of what you propose to do and not be limited based on how much funding you would expect to receive," she said.

The special session scheduled to start Jan. 12 would consider whether to allow school officials to link teacher and principal evaluations and the initial granting of tenure to student performance. Other potential changes call for annual teacher evaluations and creating a statewide recovery district for failing schools.

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