Quolke's Corner 12/19/11

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On Friday, December 16 the Plain Dealer printed an article entitled “Ohio to get millions in ‘Race to the Top’ award for early childhood education” and that article has caused quite a stir for some of our members. I want to clarify some of the points of this award. 
It was announced on Friday that Ohio is one of nine states to win the “Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grants”. The state of Ohio’s award is $70 million. Apparently, many interpreted this award as a way to save preschool in the Cleveland Schools. They saw funding coming to the state of Ohio and believed that this is money that could be used to fund the teachers and paraprofessionals that currently work in Cleveland’s preschool education program. This is a grant (and like most grants) the funding is not earmarked for, intended for, or able to be used for employee salaries. Funding from the government that is able to be used to pay for employee salaries is usually in the form of a stimulus package. Additionally, this money will all be going to the state of Ohio and will not flow to any school district – including Cleveland.
I personally have not been through the entire 349 page grant application that the Ohio Department of Education submitted to the government, but I have been in contact with our expert from Ohio who has read the application. She gave me list of items that the state earmarked the money for. The money is going to be used for redoing education from birth to age 5. The state will revamp the K-RAL test for early literacy readiness. The state is expanding early learning standards to include all readiness domains from birth to kindergarten entry. This grant money will be used to develop a comprehensive system of assessments for the child, classroom, and program level. This is in addition to what the Plain Dealer reported. To quote the Plain Dealer:
            “Over the next four years, the grant will be used to:
·         Provide an additional 37,000 children with access to high-quality child care and preschool programs
·         Increase the number of high-rated programs by 1,300
·         Develop a better way to assess kindergarten readiness, report the results on state report cards and preschool ratings, and lessen the gap in readiness between disadvantaged children and their more fortunate classmates”
Nowhere in the Plain Dealer article is it indicated that awarded grant money could be used or would be used to provide funding to staff or maintain currently existing preschool anywhere in Ohio.
Overall, this grant is about measuring the readiness of students for kindergarten, eliminating a readiness for school gap, and increasing the quality of preschool programs. We know that quality preschool works and we know that quality preschool exists in CMSD schools. That is why this was one of the more devastating cuts that the Board of Education made in October. This grant will help to strengthen the preschool program throughout the state of Ohio and hopefully lessen the achievement gap in school readiness. But for sure this grant will not be the funding source for preschool and this grant will remain with the state of Ohio and not be spent by the individual school districts.
I hope that this clears up any questions that arose as a result of the Plain Dealer article. Here is the link to the original article: http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2011/12/ohio_to_get_race_to_the_top_aw.html
In Union,