Friday, March 5, 2010

Indiana DOE Fails to Get Federal Money

State vows to proceed with education reforms

Indiana fails in its bid for $450M in federal grants

Education leaders pledged Thursday to regroup and move forward with plans to reform Indiana schools even though the state was shut out of the running to split $4 billion in federal money.
The Indiana Department of Education had been confident after Obama administration officials cited the state in speeches and education groups pegged Indiana among the best contenders in the "Race to the Top" competition.

But its $450 million proposal was not among the 16 selected as finalists. Fewer than 10 will be picked to receive the money.  "I'm confused, I'm surprised and I'm disappointed," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett. "But I'm not going to go back on my word. We're going to do what we said."
The U.S. Department of Education will hold back at least $2 billion of the money, which is part of theeconomic stimulus package, for a second round of applications later this year.  Gov. Mitch Daniels issued a statement expressing surprise that Indiana had not made it onto the list of finalists.   "We think we proposed as strong a reform package as we knew how, and others agreed," he said. "We're surprised we weren't a finalist, but the reform movement has to move forward with or without extra dollars."
Bennett said he still plans to open new paths to attract teachers and push to have principal and teacher evaluations tied to student test scores.
The state's plan also calls for shifting the focus from testing to measuring student progress and taking over low-performing schools that fail to improve over time.  Some of those proposals, though, will take much longer to accomplish without federal funding. Bennett said that he did not have specifics on a timeline but that his department is regrouping. "There will be parts of it to do now that will be a little bit more difficult than others," he said.
Another obstacle may be getting teachers unions to sign on to plans they had reluctantly agreed to without the incentive of millions of dollars in federal cash.  Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White said his district would stand with the state if it goes ahead with reform efforts, regardless of the money.



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