St. Louis — When the U.S. Department of Education announced it would provide stimulus funds to boost the nation’s “persistently lowest-achieving schools,” it expected results.
To even compete for a share of the $3 billion, schools had to be willing to adopt strenuous reform proposals that could include replacing more than half of the faculty.
All schools taking the money would be under the same expectations.
But from a financial standpoint, the awards are anything but an even split.
Because of a process that gives states wide latitude in divvying up the funds, some schools are receiving as much as 10 times the grant money of others.
For example, in the St. Louis area, the awards range from nearly $50,000 to more than $1.7 million — the latter of which is for a single school, Hazelwood East Middle School in the Hazelwood School District in north St. Louis County. That amounts to $3,888 per student at the struggling school.
In contrast, three schools in the Riverview Gardens School District were awarded a tiny fraction of that amount, with about $243 per student at the district’s Central Middle School and $293 per pupil at its Westview Middle School.
Riverview Superintendent Clive Coleman says he is happy to get any amount of grant money. And he calls the grant application process fair.
Still, he said, “it’s not enough, to be to honest with you. … I wish I had more. We need more in the way of instructional supports.”