Federal funds for schools causes controversy - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Federal funds for schools causes controversy

By Keitha Nelson - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Billions of dollars are up for grabs from the federal government and Louisiana schools stand to collect millions. However, those funds come with a few strings attached that have sparked a passionate argument about whether or not the state should take the money.

The Louisiana Department of Education is set to host a summit Thursday. The goal is to set the record straight and let people know what the Race to the Top program is all about. The federally-funded program would dish out anywhere from $25 million - $50 million annually for three or four years to schools in the state.

Those against the program are protesting loudly. There are a few controversial guidelines schools would have to adhere to. One of those is "reconstitution," which is principals letting go of their entire staffs and having them all re-apply for their jobs.

According to Don Whittinghill with the Louisiana School Boards Association, one of the biggest gripes is what will happen once the federal funds run out. He said the majority of superintendents in the Baton Rouge area that were surveyed by the LSBA were against the state Department of Education taking the federal funds.

"After that money is gone, you have to use all of your capabilities to raise money to continue it, even if that means taking money from successful schools," Whittinghill said.

State Superintendent Paul Pastorek is confident about Louisiana schools being able to sustain the programs implemented with the federal funds. He said the U.S. Department of Education's money is simply intended to be used for transitional costs.

"The truth of the matter is the federal government is not going to give us the money unless we show we can sustain the effort," Pastorek said. "I'm positive we can do it. I think they're just operating out of fear and misimpression."

Thursday's Race to the Top summit is open to the public. It will be in the Thomas Jefferson Room of the Claiborne Building from 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

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