2009-12-27 / News

‘What is the price tag for taking a stand?’

New Lothrop Schools opt to wait for details on Race to The Top
By Hillary Grigonis Staff Reporter

NEW LOTHROP – “We have more questions than answers.” The discussion on the Race To The Top funding at the New Lothrop Area Public Schools board meeting seemed to reflect board president Robert Warner’s statement—the group agreed that there were too many details left in the dark to consider signing a memorandum of support.

As Michigan looks for the chance at $400 million in federal grant money, the state is offering public schools a share in the possible funds for signing a memorandum of support. The House and Senate approved an educational reform package early Dec. 19 to apply for the grant, including changes for performance standards for teachers.

Signing the agreement could also mean a switch to federal curriculum and testing standards, Superintendent John Strycker said.

The district’s lawyer, Thurn Law Firm P.C., did not recommend that the district sign the agreement, due to the lack of details about the commitments signing the memorandum would entail.

Strycker shared his personal opinion on the issue with the board. “My struggle is with the principle of this, where the federal government came in and said ‘here’s money’ and the state…made major changes at 1 a.m.,” he said.

New Lothrop would receive about $22,000 if Michigan was selected for the grant and the district signed the agreement.

“What is the price tag for taking a stand?” Strycker said.

“There are so many strings attached,” board member Curt Bitterman said. “Are they going to say things like we can’t say the pledge of allegiance [because we cannot say God]?”

“Are we going to be in the same boat whether or not we sign?” board member Richard White asked.

Strycker responded by saying that, with many reform changes being made into law, the district would still be required to follow the changes.

“At what point do you take a stand against the principle of something and at what point do you sell out for the money?” Strycker said.

“I am not opposed to educational reform,” he said, “I am opposed to the money being the driving factor of reform.”

“Everything is happening in such a hurry that there are no details,” White said, “…and the devil is in the details.” He also pointed out that receiving the grant money would be a short-term influx of money with long-term changes.

On a list of eight Shiawassee County public schools, New Lothrop would gain the smallest amount of the potential money at $22,000 for signing, with larger schools standing to gain over $100,000, like Owosso, who could gain over $330,000. The money would be distributed based on Title 1, which is influenced by student enrollment numbers.

From a monetary standpoint, Strycker said, the risk of not signing the agreement is less than other districts’.

The discussion resulted in an informal agreement to wait for developments. Warner said the board’s position on the issue could change if the details become clearer. The board has until Jan. 6 to sign the agreement.

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