State school chief says passage of pending bills would boost Race to Top

State Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says in a letter to General Assembly leaders they could boost Kentucky's Race To The Top application by passing four pending bills, but he makes no recommendation on charter schools.

Holliday said if Kentucky significantly improves its application in a category called Great Teachers and Leaders and makes slight improvements in some others, it should be "very competitive" in the second round of the Race competition.

The general category, in which Kentucky ranked the lowest, could be significantly improved only by the General Assembly passing charter school legislation, Holliday's letter states. However, it does not say the legislature should do that.

Holliday says the four bills the legislature should pass would have these results:

■ Raise the state compulsory school attendance age to 18.

■ Provide for early high school graduation.

■ Provide for summer learning camps.

■ Strengthen educational efforts for students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

"Passage of these pieces of legislation would most importantly improve the number of Kentucky students who are college- and career-ready and at the same time increase our overall point total for our application in Phase 2 of the RTTT competition," Holliday wrote.

He sent the letter late Tuesday to Senate President David L. Williams, R-Burkesville, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

Kentucky was one of 16 finalists in the first round of the $4.35 billion Race program, which rewards states for innovative efforts to improve education.

The state came up short when the U.S. Department of Education announced Delaware and Tennessee as the first-round winners Monday. Kentucky finished ninth, 35.8 points behind top-ranked Delaware. It could be eligible for money in the second round in June.

In an analysis Tuesday, Holliday said Kentucky could improve its score the most by passing charter school legislation, which would add 32 points to its score. But he said he wasn't sure there was support for a special legislative session to consider charter schools.

Kentucky's second-round application is due by June 1.

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