‘Race to Top’ Application Taking More Prep Time Than Feds Estimated

U.S. officials said it should take just under 700 hours to complete the education grant request. “Aside from the work the General Assembly is doing, we will have easily spent more than double the estimated hours,” says a Tennessee Department of Education spokeswoman .

Tennessee education officials figure the state will invest more than twice the 681 hours in work time the federal government estimated states should take when preparing requests for special stimulus package school-funding grants.

Lawmakers are at the capitol this week at Gov. Phil Bredesen’s behest to try and pass legislation he hopes will give Tennessee a better chance of snatching  more than $400 million in one-time federal education funding.

Officials in the Volunteer State began working on the 102-page grant application in early Fall when initial details of the program were released. Two workers from Education First Consulting joined the effort full-time in November after federal officials issued applications.

Those two workers, who are responsible for producing an attractive Tennessee application for the “Race to the Top” grants, are paid by the Seattle-based Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation will cover up to $250,000 of the consulting firms’ costs, but none of that money trickles down to Tennessee staffers working on the grant, said Rachel Woods, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.

State education staff have also poured hours into the the RTTT application, Woods said. As many as 40 people have been writing up explanations of key education programs to paste into the application.

Others are collecting grant agreements from the state’s 136 school districts.

Woods said the state will “easily” double the federal government’s 681-hour estimate.

The RTTT application is due in Washington, D.C., by 4:30 p.m. Jan. 19. Lawmakers hope to pass legislation before then that will make Tennessee a stronger competitor for a chunk of the $4.35 billion grant.

Numerous other states also quickly exceeded the U.S. Board of Education’s 681-hour estimate — about 4 and a half months for one person — when filling out the RTTT grant application.

“I will have easily put in 81 hours myself by the time the proposal turns in,” Woods said.

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