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Special school board meeting set for grant

'Race to the Top' to be discussed for memorandum

December 30, 2009 - The Brandon School Board is expected to vote on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would make the district eligible for a share of federal funds earmarked for education.

A motion will be presented to the board for discussion at a special board meeting set for 6:30 p.m., Jan. 6 at the Brandon School Board Central Offices. Approval would put the district in the running for "Race to the Top" education grant money — a share of $400 million available for more than 700 school districts statewide. Of that, about $115,000 could be added to district coffers, said Beth Nuccio, school board president.

"My worry is that within the grant is an unfunded mandate," said Nuccio. "This could end up costing the district money if we have to evaluate staff on a yearly basis. I will support the MOU, but I still have many concerns. The grant requirements are not as transparent as they should be, there are possibilities of changes that we as a district may not be able to meet. Moreover, there seems to be a an erosion of local control in the works."

"Still, we should stay in the mix for the money—we can opt out of the grant, if we so desire at a later time. I will support the MOU, but it will be up to the board on Wednesday to make that decision."

The board's urgency to sign the MOU comes after Mike Flanagan, superintendent of public instruction, and Kathleen Straus, state board of education president, sent a letter to school districts earlier this month saying that districts that don't have a signed MOU by on Jan. 7, 2010 will not be eligible for the federal Race to the Top funds.

The amount of money will be divvied up according to the Title I funding allocation formula. Title I grants are used to provide supplementary educational and related services to low-achieving children attending schools with relatively high concentrations of pupils from low-income families.

Built into President Barack Obama's stimulus plan was $100 billion for education—and from that pot of cash announced this past summer was the Race to the Top grant. The concept is to have states compete for the $4.35 billion in grants— to help fill its funding gap after lawmakers slashed more than $200 million from state education coffers.

On Dec. 21, the Goodrich School Board could not muster enough support to sign a memorandum of understanding that would make the district eligible for its share of about $43,000 in federal funds earmarked for education. In contrast the Oxford School District, which would receive about $97,179, voted 7-0 on Monday night to sign the MOU.

According to the Michigan Education Association, the Michigan Race to the Top proposal will be a single integrated education reform plan, aligned with the four reform areas outlined under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) those being: data systems; standards and assessments; teachers/leaders; and support for struggling schools and districts that will ideally be implemented statewide.

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