November 2, 2011
Nine months after he announced a $500 million mini-Race to the Top program, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has released details on how cash-strapped school districts can compete for the funds.
Districts will have to show improved test scores and promise to implement new teacher evaluations to have a shot at the first $75 million being doled out through a grant about student performance.
Cuomo outlined the competitive grant programs on his first official day in office on Jan. 5 in his State of the State speech, in which he said he planned to create two $250 million funds. One would be doled out to districts that boosted test scores and graduation over the last two years; the other would be for districts that cut costs.
Cuomo cut more than $1.2 billion in funding from local districts this year, saying that the state had spent too much on schools without getting adequate performance results. Distributing funds competitively, he said, would spark faster improvement in education.
“This competitive award program will incentivize innovative reforms in school districts across the state that will benefit students and help educate the workforce of tomorrow,” Cuomo said in a press release about the program today.
Details about the first grant, three years of funding rewarding student performance, were quietly posted on the State Education Department’s website Oct. 20. State officials say more grants are expected in future years until $250 million has been distributed.
Called the School District Performance Improvement Competitive Grant Program, the $75 million initiative is modeled on the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative, which spurred states to reform their education laws in exchange for millions in funding.
Cuomo’s program shares many elements of Race to the Top, from its policy objectives to the way applications will be scored using a point system and peer reviewers. Just over 40 percent of a district’s score will be based on test scores and graduation rates.
To apply, districts must have already explained how they would use their share of the state’s $700 million Race to the Top funds. They must also be on target to have fully implemented a teacher evaluation system that complies with current state law by the end of the school year — a requirement that could make winning the new funds tricky for New York City and other districts across the state where teacher evaluation systems are not yet in place.
The city is the only district in the state with over 100,000 students and would stand to receive $30 million over the grant’s three-year term if it plans to apply. We’re awaiting an official statement from the DOE on whether or not they plan to apply.
In one departure from Race to the Top, charter schools cannot apply for Cuomo’s grant program. Originally, the application did not make the prohibition clear, prompting some charter schools to inquire about applying. That was an oversight, according to a Cuomo spokesman, and the program description has since been updated.
School districts have until Jan. 17 to apply. The first round of awards will make their way to school districts during the 2011-2012 school year.
An initial grant for districts that show they have cut costs without sacrificing performance will be released later this year, officials said.