Louisiana superintendent of education Paul Pastorek told local school district administrators last week that millions of federal dollars could be available next year to help improve the state’s most troubled public schools.

Pastorek said Louisiana may be eligible for up to $200 million over two years from the federal stimulus package’s $4.4 billion Race to the Top program that rewards educational innovation and reform. The stimulus money is expected to be allocated among a dozen states, he said.

If the state gets the funds, Pastorek said half of its total would be divided among local districts that identify and make significant changes to low-performing schools. The money would be available to  districts in September 2010 if the state’s application is approved.

The U.S. Department of Education said states must lift any restrictions on the number of charter schools allowed and agree to link teacher salaries to student achievement to be eligible for the Race to the Top grants,

States competing for the funds must agree to restructure at least 5% of their low-performing schools. About 500 of Louisiana’s 1,300 public schools have school performance scores below the state average.

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