Twenty-nine Kentucky school districts plan to apply for a new round of Race to the Top grants. The U.S. Department of Education will dole out $400 million to districts this December. The DOE wants recipients to use the money to personalize student learning.
Paducah Independent Schools superintendent Randy Green says that’s exactly the kind of funding his district needs. Green says specialized learning is important to PIS because 73 percent of students are low income, based on free and reduced meals. He says state SEEK (Seeking Education Excellence in Kentucky) cuts have made teaching students much harder.
“We try to reduce class sizes with our general fund, we try to have special programs with our general fund, and we’ve been cut to the hilt, and we just don’t have any more money to do that at all, and we have to have extra money, and that’s the reason why we’re going after this," said Green. "In fact, at the end of this year, we’re going to make serious cuts in our staff. We don’t have a choice. As I’ve said, we’ve been cut and cut and cut. We’ve tried so hard over the last four years not to cut staff, and to cut programs. But we’re going to have to."
Green says PIS will ask for $5 million and $6 million, to be used over the next four to five years. He hopes the district could use the money to hire back teachers to reduce class sizes, and increase the amount of specialized attention students get.
Depending on size, local districts may receive anywhere from $5 million to $40 million through this RTTT round.
The deadline for applications is October 30. Close to 900 districts across the nation have filed their intent to apply. Henderson County Schools is another western Kentucky district among them. Henderson Schools Academic Research Director Darrell Daigle says his district has a good chance of getting a portion of the funds.
“Part of the grant is they’re looking for districts that have been making academic progress and that can build on that academic progress. And we feel that’s the exact position our district is in," said Daigle.
Daigle says Henderson County began implementing college and career readiness programs three years before Kentucky made that a statewide focus. He says the district plans to ask for between $15 million and $20 million.