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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Florida education commissioner makes one last effort to convince on Race to the Top



Today's the day Florida school districts need to tell the state Department of Education whether they want to participate in the federal Race to the Top education reform grant program.

State education commissioner Eric J. Smith really wants them to join in. He's made public pleas to newspapers and at school board meetings. He's had sit-downs with influential civic groups, getting them to send letters of support for the state's plans for the money.

Late Monday, he sent one last letter to superintendents, school boards and the balking Florida Education Association explaining how he is working to build flexibility and local control into the system. Those two things have caused some concerns among leaders who have said they might not sign the MOU, potentially jeopardizing Florida's chance to grab some of the $4.35 million fund.

Smith states that "local education leaders have the opportunity and, more importantly, the responsibility to create a local plan that speaks to the needs of their community."

He also notes that there is no penalty for not submitting a plan after signing the memorandum of understanding, suggesting that districts can agree now to help the state's cause and then back out later if they can't reach agreement on the details.

Will it work? We'll soon find out.

From this morning's news we already know:

The Bay School Board has signed the MOU, without the support of its teachers union (Panama City News Herald).

Lee officials have asked for an extension to Tuesday's deadline to give them more time to reach a local deal with teachers on the plan (Naples Daily News).

Brevard's teachers union is sticking firm to its opposition of the grant in its current form (Florida Today).

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:46am]


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