Will the Straight A Fund board shoot straight?

This years state budget introduced the Straight A Fund, a scaled down version of the Federal Race to the Top. The fund will distribute $100 million this year and $150 million in 2015. Individual school districts, charter schools, STEM schools, and JVS districts can apply for grants of up to $5 million while partnerships between schools and colleges, universities and private groups can get up to $15 million.

The application process will soon open, and the first round of winners and losers are expected to be announced in late December.

The winners and losers will be decided by a small board of people hand picked by the Governor, The Speaker and the Senate President. Those appointments have just been finalized, so the board will look like this

Dr. Richard A. Ross, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ohio Department of Education
Representative Gerald Stebelton, Ohio House of Representatives
Colleen Grady, Education Policy Advisor at the Ohio House of Representatives
Alex Fischer, President and CEO of the Columbus Partnership
Kristina Phillips-Schwartz, Director of Education Initiatives at the Cincinnati Business Committee.
Superintendent John Scheu, Sidney City School District

As you can see, it is packed with ideologues and corporate reform supporters, and meets for the first time on September 11th, 2013.

What can we expect?

We expect that a significant number of grant applications from traditional public schools to focus on meeting unfunded mandates such as the 3rd grade reading guarantee, and technology needed to implement the Common Core testing regime, we don't expect too many "innovative" plans to be submitted, given the nature of the one-time money and the inability to sustain any non capital projects. Indeed, with the exhaustion of much of the RttT money we are seeing and hearing a lot of scaling back on projects that program created for the same reason.

We also expect to see a large number of charter schools apply for this money, and we suspect given the nature of the Straight A Fund Board, they will enjoy an oversized share of the money.

Scoring of grant applications will therefore be an important part of the process. ODE has this to say about scoring Straight A Fund applications

As awards from the Straight A Fund are competitive in nature, it is also anticipated that scorers will be necessary to read and review applications. As directed by the enabling legislation, Straight A Fund applications must be sustainable, have substantial value and lasting impact, and meet one of three programmatic goals: student achievement; spending reduction in the five-year fiscal forecast; and/or use of a greater share of resources in the classroom.

If you are interested in being a scorer, and we encourage you to do so, you can signup to find out more here.


The Department of Education will post applications online by the end of the week with submissions due Oct. 25. The governing board will meet Nov. 12 and Dec. 3 to make final decisions on what will be funded. The money is slated for Controlling Board approval Dec. 16 with awards delivered in January