Las Vegas Sun

May 4, 2015

Currently: 73° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

School District: Race to the Top money not worth the effort


Justin M. Bowen / File photo

The Clark County School District administration building in Las Vegas.

The cash-strapped Clark County School District is expected to forgo a pursuit of millions of dollars in federal grant money because it has too many strings attached.

This month, the $4 billion Race to the Top grant program opened its latest round of funding to individual school districts for the first time in its three-year history. Previously, only state education departments were eligible to apply for the grant, which rewarded states for implementing innovations supported by President Barack Obama. Nevada is not a Race to the Top state.

School districts across the country are eligible to apply for $400 million in Race to the Top funding, with each four-year grant worth $15-25 million. Final deadline to send in grant applications to the feds is set for October.

With only 15 to 20 school districts across the country anticipated to win the multimillion-dollar grants, the competition is expected to be fierce.

However, the School District doesn’t seem too interested in participating in what one School Board member likened to “mud-wrestling.”

That’s because the grant is too restrictive and potential for failing to meet its requirements is too high for a large urban district like Clark County, officials said Wednesday during a special work session.

These requirements include creating a “personalized learning environment” — an individualized learning goal and plan — for each student in the pilot program, in Clark County’s case about 10,000 students. The grant also requires that a teacher, principal, superintendent and school board evaluation system be implemented by 2014-15.

There is also an expectation that school districts scale up these innovations after the Race to the Top pilot program ends, said Kimberly Wooden, chief student services officer.

That could prove difficult for Clark County, which – as the fifth-largest school district in the nation– serves 309,000 students.

“It’s a great idea, but in order to bring it to scale in a district our size, it may require technology,” Wooden said, adding there may be additional costs incurred to the School District to implement this technology.

Furthermore, for all its troubles, the School District may receive just $6 million a year in Race to the Top money, officials said. The School District operates on a $2 billion annual budget.

“My concern is that a grant, once awarded, becomes a contract,” School Board member Erin Cranor said. “Sounds like selling your soul for $6 million.”

States such as Georgia and Hawaii that have failed to meet the grant requirements now face heavy sanctions — a fate School District officials say they don’t want to fall on Las Vegas.

“I just have real concerns. I already feel that we have so many mandates on us,” School Board member Deanna Wright said. “No, let’s keep on our course. Let someone else mud-wrestle for $6 million.”

School Board member Chris Garvey agreed: “Let’s continue on our path. Look for money without a lot of strings on it.”

Superintendent Dwight Jones, who was on vacation during Wednesday’s work session, has the option to submit an application that is to the School District’s benefit, said Cranor, who has experience as a grant-writer. The federal government is likely to reject the application; however, there is a small chance the money could be awarded to Clark County, she said.

The School District currently has about $20 million in federal grants, including more than $8 million in School Improvement Grant, or “turnaround,” money.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 10 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Good call CCSD School Board!!!

    Board Members were quite right about the competitive nature of Race to the Top, much akin to "Selling your soul," and "mud-wrestling." Worst of all, this GAME, already has the winners figured into the game. In other words, the rules of the game were written so that certain favorite players would and could win. Time and outcomes are bearing this out.

    Nearly a year ago, I wrote this in the Las Vegas Sun comments, and it still stands:

    Race to the Top is a COMPETITION for funding, specifically for screened money earmarked by BILLIONAIRES while Americans have fallen asleep allowing others to control their children's education.

    No Child Left Behind, authored by Diane Ratevitch, denounced it later and claimed it to be a terrible mistake. Too late now, since the hands of the innept and the greedy have taken hold without so much an outcry from the taxpaying public all along the way.
    I will again repeat myself:
    Please read:

    Education in the United States of America is under the influence of corporate billionaires. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are promoted by these Billionaires as well as these Billionaires are also receiptiants benefitting from publishing, testing, analysis, other industries, etc. Can you now conclude that the very wealthy, powerful, elite billionaires of the USA, are are unfairly influencing public education? To uncover this little known truth, please take the time to read the Winter, 2011, Dissent article, "Got Dough? How Billionaires Rule Our Schools," by Joanne Barkan.

    This responds to (Governor Sandoval's Educational consultant) Michelle Rhea and the anti-public education movie, Waiting for Superman, this article in Dissent sets the facts straight about WHO is really controlling public education...and it ain't the public! Ms. Barkan writes, "All children should have access to a good public school. And public schools should be run by officials who answer to the voters. Gates, Broad, and Walton answer to no one. Tax payers still fund more than 99 percent of the cost of K--12 education. Private foundations should not be setting public policy for them. "

    See the YOUTUBE interview:

    Individualized educational plans do work great. I had great success utilizing such a method with classes of 15 students and less, with the help of a full-time instructional assistant while in California. It is problematic doing such a feat here in Clark County with a school district that is huge, and class sizes tend to not stay small. It is doable, but there would be the need for full-time instructional assistants as well. But the care of the students would be fabulous, and the outcome nothing short of fabulous.

    Blessings and Peace,

  2. I agree Bob, never, ever give up or give in. Never let a child think for a minute that something is to hard. Teach them always to except a challenge. Better to be wrong and fail, giving the task 100% effort, than to never try.

  3. To the above Commenters, consider this, and I have tried here, and know the outcome: try to provide weekly or daily learning/goal contracts in a classroom of 23+ students, WITHOUT a full-time instructional assistant. How can you have "100% effort" as Chuck333 suggests, when the school district will NOT provide that vital full-time instructional assistant?

    Specifically to Mamie225, who and where did you find stating, "That's it, take the easy the 10K possible students how not to fail at a difficult task, "don't waste you time" noted in an above "don't waste you(r) time" comment," as I have NOT stated this in my above comment. With great sacrifice, it is possible to create some magnet schools that can implement the individual goal learning contracts, but it takes more than me to see that happen.

    Remember the Stimulus money? School districts used such money, that they knew was NOT renewable, to hire staff. When the money was not renewed, as expected, districts had to let go of those staff. The same thing can and would happen with the Race to the Top money.

    Giving up is NOT an option. With the political influence and climate in the adult world, you have to know when it is best to cut your losses, know when all the energy you put into playing a game that is pre-determined, is not the best use of your time, energy, and resources. It is hardly "giving up," but redirects and reallocates precious time, energy, and resources to where they are best served. Consider that, please.

    With Chuck333's comment, "Never let a child think for a minute that something is to(0) hard. Teach them always to except a challenge." Let me say, that in my lifetime as a teacher, my students can attest to me rising up to challenges and constructively meeting them and encouraging them to possess such mindsets themselves. There are some who rather have teachers who are inert, not demonstrating the personal fortitude it takes to "never give up, or give in...and (n)ever let a child think...that something is to(o) hard." In reality, some target such teachers with can do mindsets, sadly enough.

    The American spirit is to take lemons and make lemonade, to make the best of situation, and transform it. To do anything less, is failure, in my humble opinion.

    Blessings and Peace,

  4. The same people griping about not going for this money would be the same ones griping about how stupid the school board was for getting the grant since they knew they would not have the money to continue the programs instituted once the grant ran out.

  5. This was the EXACT same attitude that Nevada took when the initial announcement was made regarding ARRA funds. Of which the state government sat on its collective keester until the 11th hour, and then pissed and moaned about how little of the funds they got. We have grant writers on staff at the state, if the school district is concerned about strings attached ask the attorneys for Clark County to review it......just get up off your LAZY butts and do something, not like any of these self-serving board members would actually have to do anything for the proposal part of the grant.

  6. CCSD is used to getting money without effort and without strings attached. Strings--you know--teaching our kids to read and write, graduate.

  7. chuck333: Take a look at the turnaround schools that received federal money and a pile of mandates to go with it. From my knowledge of one of the schools, the school climate didn't change because the principal didn't change. Teachers were leaving this year in droves because of it. The extra money came in handy for supplies for teachers to actually teach, but on the other hand, a lot of that money was mandated to be used by a consulting firm that came in to observe the teachers and conduct workshops on how to be better teachers...providing no new information or ideas that the teachers didn't already get in their education classes while earning their degrees.

  8. "Star AND Chuck: "except a challenge"???? Was that expect or accept?

  9. =) to Roberta Andersen! You are right, and although it was Chuck333 who penned it, my coffee hadn't kicked in enough obviously. Bless you for finding that, I'll be more careful next time! =)

    To Chuck333 who said, "...but raised two children, both of which are very successful, and even though they had challenges growing up, I never let them give up on anything they wanted to accomplish." Same here! Believing in our children (and for teachers, other's children) supported with a "can do" attitude guides them on the road of success. Pride wells up inside of me with your words here, as it is so true. =)

    Regarding the Race to the Top funding, some Commenters have missed my point about this particular offering. It is a competition, much like a game that has already sacked the deck with winners.

    Nevada is NOT on the lucky winners list for this particular competition from the get go.

    We need our Nevada State Representatives to go out and curry favor with the billionaires who have supreme influence in these US Dept. of Education giveaways, it is apparent that they do not.

    In this case, citizens should not be whipping the CCSD School Board or their grant writers over this Race to the Top competition. They did make the right call, to their credit. Focus should be to put a fire under our State Representatives to influence or lobby more effectively with the US Department of Education and those altruistic billionaires who contribute and influence our nation's and state's education.

    Have a great Friday, the 13th!
    Blessings and Peace,

  10. Regardless of whether they receive a financial reward, CCSD should be working to create evaluation systems for principals, the superintendent, district administrative staff and the school board (both state & local).