Grant money should not be tied to district school grades CHRONICLE EDITORIAL

THE ISSUE: Changed grant criteria freezes Citrus schools out of contention.

OUR OPINION: Ineligible because we are “too successful” makes no sense.

Citrus County school system officials were unhappily surprised recently to learn that we’re not eligible for a grant program because our schools are too successful.

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant through the Florida Department of Education supports “academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools.”

We have the high-poverty part covered: more than 60 percent of students in our school system qualify for free/reduced lunch. But we do not have low-performing schools. Quite the opposite — Citrus County schools have achieved A and B school rankings even in such an economically challenged environment.

The 21st Century grant would have added after-school programs for at-risk high school students through tutoring, mentoring and physical fitness activities. However, the eligibility requirements for the grant were changed this year to exclude all except failing schools, those ranking D or F.

We agree with school board member Thomas Kennedy that this is troubling. It just doesn’t make sense. Schools that work extra hard to achieve high rankings still have students who could benefit from extra help.

Grant programs targeting at-risk students in high-poverty areas should not restrict eligibility because, overall, a school is doing well. Emphasis has been put on tracking individual student progress in the state’s school evaluation programs.

Give schools the opportunity to acquire more tools to help individual students, and to meet the national goal of helping every student succeed.

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