ELYRIA — The state’s success in the highly competitive, federally funded education reform competition known as Race to the Top could net millions of dollars for Lorain County school districts.
The announcement Tuesday by U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan that Ohio was selected with eight other states and the District of Columbia has local superintendents excited about the prospects of additional funding.
“Anytime you can get outside monies to help with professional development, as funds will be used in Clearview, you increase your ability to help teachers receive the highest achievements possible in the classroom,” Clearview Superintendent Tom Jama said. “We are working toward a goal of becoming an excellent school district and, in doing so, the funds will be used to increase reading and math achievement as well as open the lines of communication between the Clearview community and the district.”
The ambitions of districts like Clearview and the willingness of the federal government to back plans with additional funding is being noticed on all levels of government in Ohio.
“This money is a welcomed relief to those districts that are struggling to balance their budgets while providing a world-class education,” said state Sen. Sue Morano, D-Lorain. “It’s a big help, but we have a lot of work left to do.”
The kind of reform the federal government would like to see on the local level often comes through unfunded mandates, but Race to the Top aims to reward districts that embrace ambitious changes to improve their schools.
The state will receive $400 million in additional federal assistance for education over the next four years.
However, a lot of work still needs to be done on the local and state levels to finalize districts’ reform plans before federal funds are accessible, which could come as early as Dec. 1.
Locally, Clearview is joined by five other districts that have applied for funding through the Ohio Department of Education. They are Amherst, Avon Lake, Keystone, Lorain and Oberlin. A handful of local charter and community schools also have applied to receive funds.
Collectively, the end result could be more than $4.5 million in education funding coming to Lorain County.
State legislators who have championed efforts by districts to improve as well as fight for Race to the Top dollars for Ohio were thrilled with Tuesday’s announcement.
“The real winners are Ohio’s schools, teachers and students,” said U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo. “Education is the key to creating a vibrant, innovative economy.”
And, while some may not see the benefits of Race to the Top because it does not offer relief in the way of operating funds, which local districts need desperately and depend on tax levies to receive, others see it as a means to becoming better.
“You can not give enough training to the people that will be teaching and affecting kids’ lives for 180 days,” said Todd Stuart, executive director of educational services for Amherst Schools. “When there is money there to increase your teacher’s abilities to teach, you almost cannot turn that down.”
Amherst, which holds the designation of being a state-rated “Excellent with Distinction” district, said it has even bigger plans. The district is slated to receive close to $170,000.
“I think we are a good school district, but we are not a great district,” Stuart said. “This will help us in achieving that goal. That is what we are striving for this year. We want to improve even more. Our goal is to be the top school district in the state. If you are among the top in Lorain County, you still have room to grow.”
Academy of Arts and Sciences — $43,763.46
Amherst – $169,981.91
Avon Lake – $100,000
Clearview — $193,140.99
Constellation Schools: Elyria Community Elementary– $45,028.90
Constellation Schools: Lorain Community Elementary — $52,708.28
Constellation Schools: Lorain Community Middle — $32,374.60
Horizon Science Academy Lorain– $42,370.11
Keystone – $100,000
Life Skills Center of Elyria — $62,457.60
Lorain — $2,653,420.92
Oberlin — $140,421.07