School District U-46 has made the commitment to hopefully obtain millions in federal education stimulus money at the Monday, Jan. 11 Board of Education Meeting.
The district’s Superintendent Jose Torres, the Board of Education and teacher’s union leader Tim Davis have all signed a memorandum of understanding to participate in the federal Race to the Top grant.
Race to the Top is a competitive $4.35 billion federal education grant enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which is being made available to school districts across the country.
Illinois intends to apply for over $500 million in reform dollars, said U-46 Chief Legal Officer Patrick Broncato.
Fifty-percent of those funds would be allocated to districts who submitted memorandums of understanding, Broncato said.
Funds will be made available to school districts that are willing to make some “potentially pretty dramatic changes in the way we look at school districts and the way we look at aligning recourses and data throughout the district,” Broncato said. “There is a great deal of incentive behind some of the commitments.”
Broncato said Race to the Top focuses on four standards; adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace, building data systems that measure student growth and success, recruiting, developing, rewarding and retaining effective teachers and principals and turning around lowest-achieving schools.
“Why consider this?” Davis said. “This is a large grant and U-46 is revenue challenged.”
If Illinois is awarded the grant, there is a 90-day opt out plan if the district feels it cannot comply with the memorandum or that the money does not create a sustainable strategy.
“It’s an aggressive timeline…that will be very challenging,” Davis said.
Some of the Race to the Top initiatives will require collective bargaining agreements with the Elgin Teachers Association and support staff to be renegotiated, Broncato said.
Broncato said he is unsure of the amount of funds U-46 would receive or if there are any other unknown federal requirements.
The Illinois State Board of Education must submit a “state plan” which details the state’s proposal to implement the four key reforms which is due on Jan. 19. U-46 needed to submit its memorandum by Jan. 11.
Phase one of winners will announced in April and feedback will be provided to those applicants that did not win. Phase two winners will be announced in September.