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VOL. 125 | NO. 66 | Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Talks Still to Come Over Education Reform Money

By Bill Dries

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Next week in Washington, Tennessee officials will begin talking specific dollar figures with federal education officials who awarded the state $500 million.

The talks will determine the flow of Race to the Top education reform funding over a four-year period.

But the half of the money that is to go directly to local school districts in Tennessee has already been tentatively divided up.

The cut for Memphis City Schools is larger than any other school district, at more than $68 million. State education officials determined the distribution of the money. The state gets the other half of the $500 million for a statewide reform program.

Shelby County schools get a $5.2 million cut.

But county school board chairman David Pickler told The Daily News he has concerns about the strings attached to the federal funding.

“It appears that Washington has figured it out – that they can set their objectives. They can set their agenda. And all they’ve got to say is, ‘If you want this money, then you’ve got to embrace this agenda,’” he said. “I think we have opened Pandora’s box. Local school districts and states are effectively selling their souls for 30 pieces of silver.

“Obviously, it’s much more than 30 pieces of silver. But the concern is we’re dealing with short-term dollars.”

Gov. Phil Bredesen singled out the Memphis school system as pointing the way toward the statewide reform proposal that caught the eye of federal officials. Memphis school board member Tomeka Hart was part of the team that made the state’s presentation to federal education officials.

By comparison, the Davidson County school system gets $30.2 million.

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