Educators might ask to delay parts of education bill

The state Department of Education might ask the Kentucky General Assembly to delay portions of a major state education improvement act if funding to fully implement it can't be found, a department spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Kentucky officials had been hoping to win $175 million in the federal Race to the Top program to implement Senate Bill 1, the wide-ranging education package legislators approved in 2009. But Kentucky wasn't among the 10 Race winners announced last week, leaving SB1 funding uncertain.

"Depending on the funding streams we can access, there might come a point when we have to say we're not going to be able to do this because there isn't any money available," education department Lisa Gross said Wednesday. "Those are the kinds of things we would look at and go to the legislature with."

Gross stressed that no decision has been reached and that state officials are looking for other sources, such as private foundations, that might provide money for SB1 implementation.

Meanwhile, an analysis by the Kentucky School Boards Association is questioning whether Kentucky's lack of charter-school enabling legislation caused the state to lose out in Race to the Top. Having charter legislation was worth up to 32 points in Race scoring. Kentucky got no points in that category.

Kentucky's final Race score was 412.4 points, 28.4 points behind Ohio, the lowest-scoring state to win Race money. But having charter schools might not have been enough to close that gap, according to the school boards association.

The association said its analysis, posted on KSBA's Web site, shows that no Race winner received a full 32 points for having charter schools, which "seriously calls into question claims that having charters would have guaranteed federal funds for Kentucky."

School boards association spokesman Brad Hughes noted Tuesday that the association has not taken a position for or against charter schools in Kentucky.

Gross, the state education spokeswoman, generally agreed with the analysis.

"There were several other areas, along with the lack of charter schools, that made it so we could not get funding," she said. "Given what we know now, even if we had charter schools legislation, it's hard to say whether we would have been funded."

Gross said it's unclear whether there will be a third round of Race to the Top, and that Kentucky is focusing on finding other funding sources for Senate Bill 1. The bill includes such big-ticket items as a new statewide student testing system and new core content standards.

"There are lots of groups that provide foundation level funding," she said. "And we're not giving up on state funding."

But Gross also said officials have discussed the possibility of asking that some parts of SB1 be delayed if the money can't be found.

"That is not outside the realm of possibility," she said. "But we don't want to do that. That would be our last gasp. Nobody wants to go to the legislature and say we can't do this thing you've told us to do because we have no money."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader