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"Race to the Top" funding out, school districts disappointed

By PAT BAILEY

(WKTV) - The allotment of "Race to the Top" funding is out, but most school districts are unhappy with how the money must be spent.

In all over $700 million dollars of "Race to the Top" money has been awarded to the State of New York. The funding is a grant from the federal government. About half the money will stay within the New York State education system and the other half will be divided up among the local districts, said Timothy Kremer, Executive Director of the New York State School Boards Association.

School district officials NEWSChannel 2 spoke with Wednesday say they are upset with the breakdown saying it's not a lot of money and their hands are tied as to where they can spend it.

75% of funding for each district must go toward data analysts. Each district must come up with a team to track data and see what the one subject or subjects are that are producing the weakest state test scores.
The remaining 25% of the funding must go toward teacher training and accountability. Money can not be spent to hire staff.

Here is a breakdown of the how much funding the three largest districts in the Mohawk Valley will be receiving:

$108,811 will go to the Ilion school district, while Oneonta will receive $102,521 and the Utica School District $2,110,692.

The large amount of money for Utica mean things need to be fixed and an overhaul needs to occur within the district, Kremer said.

"Something dramatic had to happen and the Feds and the state are willing to put significant dollars into that particular school to make things happen," said Kremer. "But there will be very strong strings attached and expectations they will turn around these results. If they don't there will be significant consequences."

Defending his district, Utica School Superintendent James Willis says the district does have schools in need of improvement but as a whole they are making great strides and steady improvements.

Willis says the district is already in the process of putting a plan together on how to use the "Race to the Top" funding. Utica schools have had talks with BOCES about pooling their funding with other districts under the BOCES umbrella, Willis said.

Superintendent of the Herkimer County BOCES, Mark Vivacqua, says they are also looking to pool their districts money. By combining the funding districts can not only save money, but better assess the needs of area districts, said Willis.

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