Ky. lawmakers race to millions in federal money for education


by Stephanie Collins

Posted on January 10, 2010 at 7:15 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 25 at 6:11 PM

Sweeping education reforms and expanding domestic violence laws top the agenda this week for lawmakers when they return to Frankfort.

It is kind of early to see a big education bill move through the state house but this all about timing.  Federal money is at stake and if Kentucky doesn't move quickly it could lose out on up to $200 million.  So, when the state is cutting every program that's a lot of money.

Teacher evaluations based on student performance and poor performing schools closed, taken over and run by private or non-profit organizations; it's not the standard way of running Kentucky schools but this could be the state's future.

Kentucky lawmakers and school systems are signing on to these new federal guidelines so they won’t miss out on federal money.

It's all part of the Obama administrations stimulus plan for education known as Race to the Top that has states competing for federal dollars.

With each state being graded on how well it meets four criteria including turning around under-performing schools as well as tracking student and teacher achievement, half of the federal grant goes to the state the other half to local school districts based on poverty levels. Kentucky could qualify for up to $200 million.

But the grant is due next week so Kentucky is moving quickly, a full vote by the state house is expected Monday after passing in committee Friday, the first order of business.

The money is needed to help fund the recent overhaul of Kentucky education that threw out state-wide student testing known as CATS. Other reforms that could be funded include new standards for how subjects are taught and money for teacher training recently cut from Jefferson County.

Not included in this bill are charter schools but it does in some way open the door for the first time for operation of once public schools by private organizations.

This House bill is part of the grant application by the Kentucky Department of Education and Monday it goes to a full vote by the state house.  At this point, it's expected to pass then go on to the Senate education committee.

Money is tight and last week nearly every school system signed off on this bill. There reports that Monday night when the Jefferson County School Board meets Superintendent Sheldon Berman, he is expected to give the grant application his support.