Special Report
Federal

Idaho Writing Application for Federal Grant Program

By The Associated Press — November 23, 2009 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Idaho hopes to win $75 million or more in competitive federal grants for public schools, money that officials say could be the state’s only opportunity to boost funding for education in the next few years.

Idaho will have to alter some education rules to get in line with the federal Department of Education’s “Race to the Top” grant program, such as changing the law that limits the number of new charter schools to six a year.

But in a state where lawmakers earlier this year agreed to cut public education funding for the first time in generations, and more cuts are expected, a chance at even a sliver of the $5 billion pot of money is too tempting to ignore.

“Race to the Top is the only opportunity for education to get additional funding over the next two to three years,” state Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath said.

The grant application is due on Jan. 19 and Idaho’s proposal will include a plan to lift the cap on charter schools and pay teachers based on performance. These are both the types of education reforms Idaho public schools chief Tom Luna supports, but has not been able to get approval for in the past.

“Many of the things called for in the grant are things we’ve been working on for some time,” Luna said, “with this money we’ll just be able to get it done sooner.”

Several states have already rewritten education laws and cut deals with unions to boost their chances at Race to the Top awards. A state will have to meet a series of conditions to earn up to 500 points and boost its chances.

The $5 billion was part of the economic stimulus passed this year. The Obama administration opened the competition Nov. 12 with grant guidelines for ideas like charter schools or judging teachers based on student test scores.

While teachers unions nationally criticized the first set of proposed grant rules in August for relying too heavily on test scores and charter schools, that criticism has tempered with the release of final guidelines this month.

Unions had argued that student achievement is much more than a score on a standardized test. In response, the U.S. Department of Education changed the rules to say that teachers and principals must be judged on several different measures of student achievement, but that test scores should play a significant role.

In Idaho, the state teachers union fought the last effort by the Legislature to come up with a plan to reward teachers based on their performance, not their years in the classroom, and the plan failed during the 2008 session.

The teachers union is now among groups working with the state Department of Education on a pay-for-performance plan to be included in Idaho’s application for Race to the Top.

The plan currently being discussed would give local school districts more flexibility in rewarding teachers, using measures other than Idaho Standards Achievement Test scores. One idea would allow the option of rewarding teachers based on local indicators, such as graduation or dropout rates.

“We are excited to hear that student growth and multiple measures will be a part of the grant, rather than teachers being paid or evaluated on a single test score,” Idaho teachers union president Sherri Wood said.

The union, however, does have concerns about what happens when the grant funding runs out, Wood said, adding that she is skeptical Idaho lawmakers will be willing to pick up the tab for a pay-for-performance plan when that happens.

“I’m not sure how this is sustainable,” she said.

Also, public education funding is expected to be cut again during the 2010 Idaho Legislature to help cover the state’s remaining $52 million budget shortfall.

Idaho teachers have immediate needs, Wood said, and some are questioning a grant proposal to spending millions on a pay-for-performance plan when vacant positions have been left unfilled and class sizes have increased. Teachers would much rather see the money go to the hiring of more educators, she said.

“It just feels strange, there are some very definite needs,” Wood said. “It almost seems like we’re talking about frills.”

Related Tags:

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal Feds to Probe Whether Texas Ban on School Mask Mandates Violates Disability Rights Laws
The Education Department has already opened investigations in six other states that ban universal school mask requirements.
2 min read
A staff member holds the door open for kids on the first day of school at Goodwin Frazier Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020.
A staff member holds the door open at Goodwin Frazier Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas in 2020. This year, Texas has prohibited school districts from requiring all students to wear masks.
Mikala Compton/Herald-Zeitung via AP
Federal New Federal Team to Work on Puerto Rico School Improvement, Oversight
The Puerto Rico Education Sustainability Team will focus on creating better learning environments and improving financial management.
3 min read
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits the Emilio Delgado School in Corozal on June 30, 2021 during a visit to Puerto Rico.
Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits the Emilio Delgado School in Corozal on June 30, 2021 during a visit to Puerto Rico.
Teresa Canino Rivera/GDA via AP
Federal Pandemic Tests Limits of Cardona's Collaborative Approach as Education Secretary
He's sought the image of a veteran educator among former peers, but COVID has forced him to take a tough stance toward some state leaders.
10 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter speak to Mia Arias, 10, during their visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter speak to Mia Arias, 10, during a visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP
Federal White House Launches Hispanic Education Initiative Led by Miguel Cardona
President Joe Biden said his administration intends to address the "systemic causes" of educational disparities faced by Hispanic students.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona writes down and draws positive affirmations on poster board with students during his visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits students in New York City at P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school in the Bronx last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP