Just days after seeing its education reform efforts affirmed by the General Assembly, Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration filed a bid to claim a chunk of the $4.3 billion in federal education funding being doled out as part of President Obama’s “Race to the Top” program.
The state is asking for just over $500 million, half of which would go directly to bolstering local schools under federal guidelines. The other half, the Bredesen administration proposed in its 1,111-page proposal, would go to help turn around consistently failing schools, teacher development programs, new technology to track student progress, math and science programs, and oversight and implementation.
Bredesen said the administration is optimistic about obtaining the funding.
“We’re proud to put forward Tennessee’s very best proposal for meaningful reform in public education,” he said in a statement. “Our application should be especially competitive following last week’s efforts by the General Assembly, the Tennessee Education Association and countless others who helped support and pass the Tennessee First to the Top Act of 2010.”
The Bredesen administration outlined the major categories Wednesday:
* $108 million to help turn around struggling schools — including roughly a dozen consistently failing schools as well as 180 increasingly troubled schools.
* $62 million for teachers' professional development programs — including a new educator leadership program; expansion of a program to improve math instruction in elementary schools; and training for teachers on higher academic standards.
* $54 million to improve public school teachers’ use of Tennessee’s data system used for tracking “student growth,” or a child’s improvement in the classroom over time.
* $22.5 million to invest in programs and schools focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math.
* $3 million to help the Department of Education implement Tennessee’s plan and to establish a “First to the Top Oversight Team” charged with ensuring that funds are spent properly.
“We’re hopeful that Tennessee’s will come out on top.” said Timothy Webb, commissioner of the state Department of Education.
In the special session that began last week, lawmakers bolstered the application by changing state law to mandate the use of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations. Lawmakers now are considering higher education reforms, but House and Senate leaders say they don't expect any final action before the special session ends this week. The legislature then would take up the higher education reforms during its regular session.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Education said an announcement on "Race to the Top" funding is expected in April.