Commissioner, I’ll take ‘substantial majority’ for $39.5 million

Included in the state’s $100 million education reform package, legislators created a $39.5 million pot of money for the state’s education commissioner to dish out to the state’s worst-performing districts that promise to make certain reforms.

Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor is now signaling to districts that some of that money will be able to pay for existing programs in danger of closing because of budget shortfalls.

“The substantial majority of conditional funding must be reserved for new reform efforts, or the extension of existing reform efforts, that are specifically designed to improve student achievement,” Pryor wrote to officials in the state’s 30 worst-off districts, known as “Alliance Districts.”

In the past four years, the state’s districts have received $270 million in federal stimulus dollars and another $111 million to save teaching jobs. That money runs out this year. Pryor said he is looking to use this new $39.5 million in state money to help keep successful programs up and running, but also to open new initiatives.

The State Department of Education issued draft guidelines Wednesday for what it’s looking for in applications. An informational session will be hosted Monday at the state Capitol complex for district leaders, and applications will be due by Aug. 15. The department will inform districts before Aug. 31 if they will be receiving this money.

Bridgeport, Hartford and Waterbury are all eligible to receive more than $4 million each if their applications are approved.