Archived Story

Brandywine, Niles say yes to race

Published 10:47am Tuesday, January 12, 2010

By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star

The deadline is up for school districts to decide whether or not they would submit a signed memorandum of understanding to the state in its efforts to compete for federal funding.

Both Niles and Brandywine school districts made their decision last night regarding the memo for the “Race to the Top” grant program, in which the federal government is offering more than $4 billion nationwide, up to $400 million in federal dollars available for the state of Michigan.

“As of yesterday, of the 815 school districts or charter schools in the state of Michigan, 703 have submitted a memo of understanding on this Race to the Top grant,” John Jarpe, superintendent of Brandywine Community Schools, said Monday night.

Many school districts have pushed for more information regarding the memo – some describing having first been handed an essentially blank document that did not outline the mandates districts may be held to in order to receive funds, Jarpe said. Throughout the process “there were multiple changes and characterizations,” he said, and seemed to be more at ease with seeing the district sign on in agreement.

Still, the resolution that Jarpe proposed to the board came with a bit of a security blanket for the district.

“It’s going to be helpful for us as we learn more about this grant that we have the option to withdraw,” Jarpe said.

He added he didn’t think a withdrawal would happen, the board in a unanimous vote opted to sign the memo.

Though many districts have questioned signing on in a show of support to the state to enter into the competition for federal funding, Gov. Granholm recently signed a five-bill package that created a new set of state mandates that could directly relate to any directives passed down from the Race to the Top program.

“Much of the details, if not all of the details that are involved with this grant are now state law,” Jarpe said, addressing the board and explaining his decision to support the memo signing. “I can not pass a resolution that would suggest we not follow the law.”

Trustee Dennis Cooper questioned whether any new regulations would be funded through the grant, via the state or the federal government or if those regulations could actually cost the schools money, essentially decreasing the value of any money received through the grant.

“Are they funding it or are we going to have to do this on our own?” Cooper asked. “Is this going to be another unfunded mandate?”

That’s one question that has yet to be answered. Showing support for Michigan’s decision to compete for funding is really a first step in seeing just how Race to the Top affects school districts across the state.

Board members for Niles Community Schools also voted to sign the memorandum.

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