Elmhurst District 205 Will Not Apply for Federal Race to the Top Dollars
The return on investment is not worth it, Superintendent David Pruneau said Tuesday.
While the state of Illinois has been approved to receive $47 million in federal Race to the Top dollars, Elmhurst Unit District 205 administrators have decided the cost to try to get some of that money is too high.
Superintendent David Pruneau on Tuesday explained that of the $47 million, only $27 million will actually go to Illinois school districts. Of that amount, Chicago Public Schools, should they apply for Race to the Top dollars, will end up receiving about half.
"The $27 million will be distributed based on Title 1 eligibility," Pruneau said. "The neediest districts, the neediest schools will get the biggest percentage of funding. If Chicago Public Schools applies, it will get as much as half of the funding."
Title 1 school districts receive money from the federal government based on their population of low-income students and students at risk for failure. For a school to qualify, at least 40 percent of students must be enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program. Conrad Fischer Elementary and Churchville Middle School meet the requirements for Title I.
Even without the Chicago Public School District applying for funds, Elmhurst is not considered a high risk district under the definition of Title 1, so it would not receive a significant amount from Race to the Top, Pruneau said.
District 205 also would have to upgrade its data system to be eligible for Race to the Top dollars, he said. The program requires districts to collect assessment data from every student, then integrate their databases with the state of Illinois Shared Learning Environment.
"We do not have the capacity to do that, both in manpower and hardware/software technology," Pruneau said. "The data warehouse would run us from $250,000 to $400,000. We know we are not going to get that kind of funding back from Race to the Top grants."
He said staff at Lyons Township High School calculated it would get about $20,000 if they complied with all of the requirements.
School districts also have to implement a standard reporting system in math, English language learners and sciences, and adopt a different school and district improvement plan than District 205 currently is working on, he said. The state has not yet clearly defined those requirements.
"We already have the new report card (requirements), now we'd have to adopt another system, either Rising Star or an equivalent," Pruneau said. "Our whole improvement process would come to a halt while we wait to see what the new improvement process would be.
"Given all those factors and the return on investment … the administration is not recommending we apply at this time. "
Board member Maria Hirsch agreed with the assessment, but she emphasized that a lot of the requirements for student improvement being touted by the state already are under way in District 205.
"We believe in those initiatives," she said. "It's just that we are choosing not to tie our hands to the state model."
Board member Karen Stuefen said that based on information she received at a recent Legislative Education Network of DuPage meeting, "it's more than likely Chicago Public Schools will get their fair share," leaving very little for the rest of the schools statewide.
This is the third incarnation of Race to the Top, and school districts are starting to learn their lesson, Pruneau said. In the past, many had applied for funding and been denied, but they still had to meet all of the requirements.
"It sounds like it was crafted to reduce the number of applicants," School Board President Susan DeRonne said.
"It does make you wonder," Pruneau said.