A consortium of small, rural school districts from New Mexico and two other states has made the list of finalists for federal Race to the Top funds.
Race to the Top is a competitive grant program for education money, which has previously been distributed through states.
This is the first competition that allows districts to compete independently.
In addition to the 21 small districts that applied through the consortium, districts in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Bloomfield applied individually. They are not finalists.
The consortium includes 41 small, rural districts in New Mexico, Washington, and Arkansas. More than half of those are from New Mexico, although the district leading the effort is in Washington.
Maria Jaramillo, executive director of one of New Mexico’s regional education cooperatives, said a primary goal of the grant is to use technology to support teachers in rural areas. The emphasis of the grant is on middle and high school teachers, and creating a web-based network for those teachers to share ideas and best practices.
Grant awards will range from $5 million to $40 million over four years, depending on the number of students served by the plan.
Jaramillo said that breaks down to about $2.1 million for the six districts in her regional cooperative.
Joseph Escobedo, who was a leader in crafting APS’ application, said district officials are disappointed, but believe strong ideas resulted from the application process.
“We are disappointed, but we’re excited about the ideas we were able to gather,” he said, adding that the district will still move forward with some aspects of the grant, like making education more personalized for students.
Escobedo said the district has not yet received feedback from the U.S. Department of Education about what was lacking in the application, and it is looking forward to getting that feedback.
The U.S Department of Education chose 61 finalists from 372 applicants. Federal officials plan to give out about $400 million in grants to 15 to 25 winning applicants, which will be announced by the end of the year.
The New Mexico districts in the consortium are: Clayton, Des Moines, Estancia, Fort Sumner, House, Jemez Valley, Las Vegas City, Logan, Magdalena, Mora, Mosquero, Mountainair, Pecos, Quemado, Raton, Roy, San Jon, Santa Rosa, Springer, Vaughn and West Las Vegas.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal