Feds say changes could affect Ohio’s schools grantWritten by Associated Press | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Federal officials say they can’t assure Ohio that its $400 million federal education grant is safe, as an incoming governor who seeks a significant change to state education policy has said.
Republican Gov.-elect John Kasich has said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan assured him in a conversation last month that the money was safe even if he scraps an education funding formula supported by Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.
A spokeswoman for Duncan says whether Ohio gets all the Race to the Top money it narrowly won in a national competition will depend on whether state officials significantly change their plans for using it. That won’t be known until the changes are made and evaluated, said press secretary Sandra Abrevaya.
“While we sincerely hope to see every dollar get delivered as planned, we cannot make any commitments about funding until our staff analyzes any proposed changes and makes a determination as to whether they significantly alter the plan, or are approvable,” she said in an e-mail.
Ohio’s winning grant application proposed a strategy for spending the money to improve high school graduation rates, significantly boost college enrollment among 18- and 19-year-olds, and close gaps in achievement among students and between Ohio and other states. The state has received approval to spend the first $100 million of the grant.
Strickland has said he was told by Duncan that Ohio’s grant would be in jeopardy if the “evidence-based model” for school funding championed by the governor, which is linked to practices proven to help boost student performance, is removed from the plan.
“It’s mystifying that this has been portrayed as a question in the media when the U.S. Department of Education has been so clear,” said Strickland spokeswoman Amanda Wurst.
Kasich said no strings were attached to Duncan’s guarantee.
“I had what I can only describe as a great conversation with the secretary,” Kasich told reporters on a visit to northwest Ohio the week the two talked. “And I told him when it comes to accountability, choice, and high standards, where do I get in line? He said, look, you’ll have your money and we’ll be great partners. And I said, could I tell the media that, he said absolutely.”
State education officials also have said they believe Ohio can retain the full grant award even if the funding formula is removed from the state’s plan.
The bottom line seems to be: Time will tell.
In an e-mail that Abrevaya sent to members of Strickland’s staff that week, she relayed her efforts to “refute the assertions” Kasich had made regarding his conversation with Duncan. States still needed to “maintain fidelity to their plans” in order to remain eligible for their grants, she said in an e-mail obtained by the AP through a public records request.
Yet Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols continued to insist Friday that Duncan assured Kasich the money is safe. He called Strickland’s statements otherwise “a bunch of bluster.”
“Race to the Top isn’t a funding formula. It’s goals, it’s evaluations, it’s data systems, it’s charter schools and school choice _ things that John’s strong on,” he said.
Nichols said Kasich saw Duncan again Dec. 2 on a visit to Washington and Race to the Top did not come up. He said they spoke about overall education reforms, and Kasich is convinced the two see eye-to-eye on many education issues.
“We put in two to three weeks of phone calls to them to discuss this. They know how to get ahold of us,” he said. “If they think there’s a concern there, then I’m certain that they’ll be in touch with us.”