The grants, called School Improvement Grants, are awarded to individual schools that qualify and show the strongest commitment to using the funds to improve instruction and help struggling students academically.
To be eligible, schools must be in the lowest achieving 5 percent of schools receiving Title I funds. Title I funds are federal dollars that go toward school districts with high numbers of children from low-income families.
Mississippi received $16 million worth of School Improvement Grants. Last week, the State Board of Education approved around $11 million in federal grants to eight schools in five districts, leaving a remaining $5 million that must be appropriated or the state could lose the money.
State officials expressed disappointment. Despite the fact 113 school districts met the qualifications to apply, only 21 submitted applications, Mississippi Department of Education Chief Academic Officer Kim Benton told the State Board of Education this month.
“I’m appalled that we have so many school districts that need the help that don’t apply,” State Board of Education member John Kelly said. He asked MDE staff whether there was something additional the state could have done to reach those school districts.