Kentucky plans on competing for third round of Race to the Top early education grants

06/22/2011 01:30 PM

Kentucky is planning to compete in at least part of the third round of the federal Race to the Top education contest, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday confirmed to Pure Politics.

Holliday previously submitted two other applications for the federal program that has awarded almost $5 billion in education grants. But Kentucky didn’t receive a grant from either time it previously applied.

Kentucky lost out mainly because the U.S. Department of Education is looking for states that have charter schools or are willing to implement them to receive the grants, Holliday has previously said.

But the third round of the federal program is different than it’s previous rounds. It’s split into two separate contests, with $700 million in grant money available between the two parts.

The first part is $500 million in grants for improving early childhood education, especially in Kindergarten and early elementary grades.

That part of round three is open once again to all 50 states and Washington D.C., regardless of whether a state has won in a previous round of Race to the Top.

And Kentucky plans to apply for its chunk of that early education money, Holliday told Pure Politics.

The application would include tests to see whether preschoolers are ready for Kindergarten and whether children in first, second or third grades are prepared for higher grades, Holliday said.

The second part of the third round is available only to the first nine runner-ups in the initial Race to the Top contest, which includes Kentucky. One state, South Carolina, has already decided not to participate in that first part, while other states are weighing their options, Education Week reports.

Kentucky is one of those states weighing whether to participate in the runner-up contest, with $200 million up for grabs, said Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education.

Gross said the hesitation is due to uncertainty about the requirements of that part of the contest and whether Kentucky would be forced to change it’s application.

But she added the state is “very interested” in participating for the $200 million if the rules aren’t changed, because states included in that part of the contest are promised at least $10 million in federal grants, just for participating in that part of round three.

And if the applicant pool in the second part continues to dip, that could mean more for Kentucky’s education department.

-Reporting by Kenny Colston


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