Georgia schools shut out of Race to the Top funds

by: Scott MacFarlane Updated:

President Barack Obama briefly mentioned Race to the Top during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.
WASHINGTON —

Georgia school districts are failing a test in Washington, D.C.

The federal government has handed out $400 million to U.S. school districts but an investigation by Channel 2's Scott MacFarlane found the 25 Georgia school districts that applied failed to get even a penny.

MacFarlane found their applications were among the lowest scores and had the harshest critiques from the feds.

One superintendent told MacFarlane she's disappointed Washington doesn't realize how innovative Atlanta-area schools really are.

"Four years ago we started Race to the Top," President Barack Obama mentioned briefly during his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

An Education Department database obtained by MacFarlane found about 370 schools applied for the money, including 25 Georgia schools.

MacFarlane found many Atlanta-area districts scored among the worst of the applicants, including the Gainesville school district, which among other things wanted federal money to buy iPad tablets for students.

The federal government told Gainesville, "the logic behind the district's reform proposal lacks coherence."

"You've got to be asking who gets to decide where my tax money is going and how are they doing it?" said Neal McCluskey, author of "Feds in the Classroom."

Gainesville's superintendent told MacFarlane, "Georgia didn't seem to be a priority" of the U.S. Education Department.

The Education Department said DeKalb and Gwinnett schools were rejected in part because they didn't fully show they'd use the money to improve graduation rates.

"How does something like that happen?" MacFarlane asked Joel Packer, who is on the Committee for Education Funding.

"Well, there's a limited pot of money," Packer responded. "There are 15,000 school districts, they didn't all apply, but a large number did"

Gov. Nathan Deal's office told MacFarlane that Georgia did win a different batch of Race to the Top funds years ago and shared some of the money with Atlanta-area districts, DeKalb included.

A DeKalb schools representative said the district applied for the Race to the Top money, "fully aware that it would be a highly competitive process."

MacFarlane has been asking the U.S. Education Department to explain why Georgia schools all failed so poorly, but so far he has gotten no response.

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