Thirty-three struggling district schools have applied for the second round of Florida's new "Schools of Hope" grant, a controversial program created last spring to mollify critics of plans to establish a new system of state-funded charter schools.
Proponents bent to critics' concerns that the millions of dollars being allocated to the charter competition did nothing to help the district schools targeted for replacement. Lawmakers allocated $51.5 million for those schools, offering $2,000 per student extra for up to 25 of them.
When presented the fifty applicants for the money, though, education commissioner Pam Stewart said she couldn't recommend 25 as worthy. She offered 11 to the State Board of Education for approval, and the board agreed.
But it held out the prospect of the added funds for the eligible schools that would go through the application process again, with revised requests that might show better promise of success, according to Stewart and her staff's judgment.
Some — most notably Orange County's six candidates — didn't bother, according to the Florida Department of Education. Others that were not in the first round decided to try their hands, including Hernando County's Moton Elementary, which asked for $1.27 million, and Hamilton County's North Hamilton Elementary.
Pinellas and Hillsborough counties remained in the hunt for their eligible schools. And Pasco County continued to stay out of the picture, officials saying they preferred to seek improvements to make the awards unneeded.
The deadline was Dec. 1. The State Board is expected to name recipients in January.
There has been some talk of lawmakers proposing an expansion of the program to help more needing district schools, but so far no bills have been filed.