State misses out on Gates Foundation funds for education

Maryland's rules on tenure create stumbling block

December 10, 2009|By Liz Bowie | liz.bowie@baltsun.com

Maryland's efforts to reel in up to $260 million in federal stimulus money aimed at education reform received a setback this week.

The state did not get a competitive grant from the nonprofit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help put together an application for the stimulus money, according to Maryland State Department of Education spokesman Bill Reinhard. The $4 billion in Race to the Top education money is the largest pot of federal money ever dedicated to education reform, and it is expected to spur states to make significant changes.

Maryland has been slower than other states in positioning itself to be competitive in applying for the stimulus money. While other states have passed legislation that removed roadblocks to getting the money or put in new regulations, Maryland did little in public.

Gates had chosen about a dozen states to receive money earlier in the process but recently made more money available to states that wanted to apply.

Reinhard said the state had sought between $200,000 and $250,000 from the foundation, but that the stumbling block appeared to be Maryland's rules on tenure. Teachers can be tenured in just two years, although a principal can extend that to three years. The time frame is too short, according to Gates.

The state is still looking into private and foundation funding to hire a consultant to put together the application. "Right now we are exploring options in that area," Reinhard said. "The race to the top is such an important program we are committed to applying for it."

The application is due to the U.S. Department of Education in January.

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