Gibbons Administration Says Nevada Too Late for First Round of Federal School Improvement Funds

CARSON CITY – A Gibbons administration official said today the deadline to submit a letter of intent to seek federal funds to improve student performance in the first phase of a competitive grant program has already passed.

Stacy Woodbury, deputy chief of staff to Jim Gibbons, said the U.S. Department of Education informed her on Friday that 34 states had already submitted letters of intent to seek a share of the “Race to the Top” funds in Phase I and that the deadline to submit such letters of intent had passed.

Woodbury, in testimony to the Legislative Committee on Education, said Gibbons also disagrees with the suggestion made last week by state Sen. Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, that Nevada should try to apply in the first of two phases for the funds.

Horsford expressed concern that not applying for the funds immediately could lead to a lost opportunity for Nevada students.

Gibbons agrees with other lawmakers that Nevada should take the time to write the best application possible for funding in Phase 2 due by June, Woodbury said.

“Nevada is not ready for Phase I,” Woodbury said. “Phase II presents the best opportunity for Nevada to make a comprehensive, thoughtful, quality application for the Race to the Top program.”

There is no loss of funding at stake for Nevada if it misses the first round. States can apply in the first round or the second, but they cannot get funding in both rounds.

Nevada potentially could be eligible for $175 million in the one-time federal funds to help students improve, but a current state law prohibiting the use of student performance measures to evaluate teachers precludes the state from eligibility.

Gibbons has said he will call a special session by June to repeal the law, approved in a special session of the Legislature in 2003, so Nevada can apply for the funds in Phase II.

Woodbury said Gibbons is in agreement with lawmakers and others that student test scores should not be the only criterion used for teacher evaluations.

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