West Virginia will soon receive $3.3 million to help failing schools.
Arne Duncan, secretary of the U.S Department of Education, made the announcement March 11. Ten other states also will receive money through the School Improvement Grant program: Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah. Ohio will receive the most at $20.2 million, and South Dakota will receive the least at $1.5 million.
"When schools fail, our children and our neighborhoods suffer," Duncan said in a statement. "Turning around our lowest-performing schools is hard work but it's our responsibility. We owe it to our children, their families and the broader community. These School Improvement Grants are helping some of the lowest-achieving schools provide better education for students who need it the most."
The three Democratic members of West Virginia's Congressional delegation applauded the award. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall all said education is a top priority.
"West Virginia's schools are absolutely critical to preparing our students for their futures and creating a strong work force for our state," Rockefeller said in a March 12 statement. "Schools everywhere can almost always benefit from targeted improvements. This funding provides an important resource so schools can make performance adjustments that help strengthen our students' education. Raising the bar in our schools benefits students across West Virginia and empowers them to learn and achieve more."
Manchin said the money will help schools prepare students for the global marketplace, and in turn help the economy.
"We have a responsibility to provide them with the best education possible to help lead our next generation into a brighter future – one in which our children can compete in the global marketplace that makes our economy strong and keeps jobs here at home," Manchin said in a statement. "These grants have already seen effective results in schools across the country, and I am encouraged they will help our West Virginia schools get the resources necessary to educate our kids for future success."
Rahall, a senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives Rural Education Caucus, said that while the nation is cutting back fiscally, education funding is still important.
"I firmly believe that we must give our schools and teachers the resources they need to do their jobs," Rahall said in a statement. "While trimming our budget as a nation, we must be diligent in our pursuit to improve graduation rates and ensure that our children have the 21st century skills to compete in the ever-growing global economy. Every child deserves an opportunity to succeed in life."
These grants are awarded to the State Educational Agencies that make competitive subgrants to Local Educational Agencies that demonstrate the greatest need for aid, according to a news release from the Department of Education. The SIG program has invested up to $6 million per school over three years at more than 1,300 of the country's lowest-performing schools. Early findings show progress in many SIG schools, with some of the greatest gains coming in small towns and rural communities.
The $3.3 million will be awarded to the West Virginia Department of Education, which will then distribute the money to schools that demonstrate the greatest need.