From the Superintendent
November 18, 2013
As you know, Ohio’s school leaders responded enthusiastically to the Straight A Fund. A total of 420 organizations submitted 570 applications requesting a total of $868 million. This year’s grant pool is $100 million.
Friday, the Straight A Fund Governing Board met to review the results of the first round of scoring, focused on fiscal sustainability. A key requirement of the Straight A initiative is that funded programs can continue to live on once the grant money is used.
The majority of grant proposals had solid financial plans that convinced the Governing Board that the proposed programs met this requirement. I’m pleased that most applicants took to heart this essential component of the Straight A plan.
The Straight A Board expects to make final recommendations for final funding at its Dec. 6 meeting. Those recommendations will go to the Controlling Board for final approval Dec. 16. As you can imagine, this will be a very tough competitive process.
If your proposal was not selected on Friday to move forward to the programmatic scoring stage because it failed to meet financial sustainability requirements, here is some information about the process that should help you answer questions that may come from your staff and community:
Each applicant received three separate reviews by your peers from across the state and country who have experience in school finance, financial forecasting or related fields. Each scorer was screened by the Ohio Department of Administrative Services to ensure that only high-quality reviewers were selected. Scorers received extensive training on how to review applications. They were required to disclose direct and indirect conflicts of interest to ensure a fair process.
If the project had ongoing costs, scorers determined if there was a plan to offset those expenses with verifiable and credible spending reductions. They also reviewed how applicants demonstrated the project would sustain itself beyond the life of the grant.
Each application received a possible score of 0-3. A score of 0 indicated that none of the three fiscal sustainability scorers found the project proposal to be sustainable. A score of 2 or 3 indicated that all three fiscal sustainability scorers found the project proposal to be sustainable.
Following the scoring, a group of Grant Advisors, made up of former superintendents, treasurers and leaders in the non-profit and business communities, met to review the results. The Grant Advisors agreed that applications receiving a score of 2 or 3 should move to a second round of scoring for a programmatic review. If an application received a score of 1, the Grant Advisors examined the application and either confirmed the conclusion of the scorers, or recommended that they move to the second round of scoring. Those with a score of 0 or 1 were considered not sustainable.
Where do you go from here?
Keep in mind that this is just the first round of Straight A Fund awards. A larger, $150 million round of grant funding will be available in the spring. If your district’s proposal did not make the financial sustainability cut this round, that does not mean it wasn’t a great idea, or that—with fiscal revisions—it might not be successful in later rounds of Straight A grant funding.
Watch the Ohio Department of Education website or our LinkedIn page here for details on when a new application period will open. You can also review winning grant proposals on the site after they are selected next month. This may help you better understand what a successful application looks like.
Finally, you can get a copy of scorer comments on your application that can help you revise a proposal for resubmission later. To request a copy of your scorer comments, please send an email to StraightAFund@education.ohio.gov.
Thank you again for your interest in the Straight A Fund and your dedication to the students of Ohio.
Dr. Richard A. Ross
State Superintendent of Public Instruction