State Ups RTTT Grant Request

Tennessee officially wants $501.8 million in stimulus-package education money, $17 million more than initially proposed. The Volunteer State handed in its 1,000-plus page grant application Tuesday. Thirty-nine other states are seeking a share of “Race to the Top” funds.

Tennessee asked the federal government on Tuesday for more than half a billion dollars in grants to funnel into the state’s public schools.

That’s a $17 million increase over the $485 million figure the governor used during an address to the General Assembly last week.

The Volunteer State is now soliciting $501.8 billion in U.S. Department of Education “Race to the Top” grants, which are part of the federal stimulus package passed last year.

Gov. Phil Bredesen called lawmakers into special session last week to change several education laws in order to strengthen the state’s application.

Ultimately approved by the General Assembly, those policy adjustments now link student test-scores to teacher and principal evaluations, and create a state-wide “Achievement School District” to adopt and manage failing schools.

The increase in the total federal funding request came from higher than expected costs related to turning around failing schools,  said state Department of Education spokeswoman Rachel Woods.

Tennessee joined 40 states and the District of Columbia in vying for a chunk of $4.35 billion in education dollars under the federal education grant.

Eight states opted out of applying by the Jan. 19 deadline, including, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Vermont and Washington.

Texas and Alaska have opted out of the program entirely.

No more than 20 states that applied this week will collect on a share of the grant, which will be awarded in April. Losing states can reapply June 1.

President Obama said Wednesday he wants to expand the “Race to the Top” program by $1.35 billion in next year’s federal budget.

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