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Sunday, December 21, 2014         

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Hawaii team bids for federal education funds

By Mary Vorsino

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A five-member Hawaii team made its best pitch yesterday in Washington, D.C., on why the state should get $75 million in federal Race to the Top grant money to turn around low-performing schools and make sweeping education reforms.

Now all there is to do is wait.

Hawaii is among 19 states that are finalists for the competitive grants, and the U.S. Department of Education is expected to announce 10 to 12 winners next month.

"I think we gave it our best," interim schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said in a conference call yesterday after the presentation. "We did our homework. We showed them we were a team."

Teacher furloughs, which gave Hawaii the shortest instructional calendar in the nation last school year, did not come up in the 30-minute presentation before a panel of experts or the hourlong question-and-answer session that followed.

Matayoshi said the state's budget crunch also was not discussed, through the panel did want specifics on how the state would make the goals set out in its Race to the Top round two application a reality.

Some of the questions from the panel were "around how are you going to attract teachers and principals" to high-need areas, Matayoshi said.

Ronn Nozoe, acting deputy superintendent, said there "was a feeling of relief" after the presentation.

"We were to just go in there and do the best we could and tell them Hawaii's story," he said. "We answered their questions fairly well. We all sort of chipped in."

The five-member Hawaii team included Matayoshi and Nozoe from the DOE, along with representatives from the Hawaii State Teachers Association, Kamehameha Schools and the Hawaii P-20 Partnerships for Education.

The expert panel will use Hawaii's performance in the presentation and question-and-answer to rescore the state's grant application, adding or subtracting points as it sees fit.

Garnering Race to the Top dollars would be a big boon to the state. It would add to the $175 million in federal funds annually that go to the DOE and put a positive spotlight on a school system still recovering from the black eye left by teacher furloughs.

Only Tennessee and Delaware got money in the first round of Race to the Top grants, announced in March.

Hawaii, still grappling at the time with furloughs, was not a finalist in that round, placing 22nd out of 40 states and the District of Columbia.






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