TULSA, OK -- Tulsa's $55 million pitch is now in the hands of Microsoft's founder. TPS's team presented their proposal to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Wednesday in Seattle. In all, 10 school systems are vying for the multi-million dollar grants.
The genius behind software giant Microsoft wants American schools to get smarter about education. Bill Gates has called high schools across the country obsolete. The foundation Gates started with his wife, Melinda, is offering $500 million to push for effective teachers.
A group of charter schools from Los Angeles is in the running. And, the school systems vary in size from small districts like Pittsburgh with only about 28,000 students to those similar in size to Tulsa Public Schools like Omaha Schools, with 48,000 students, to large districts like Prince George's County Maryland in the Washington, DC area with about 134,000 students.
Some are no strangers to the Gates Foundation, like Atlanta Public Schools. It received a three-year grant in 2006 for almost $6 million to reorganize their high schools into smaller learning communities.
Gates also doled out $300,000 to Denver Public Schools in 2006 to develop a new high school. Denver Schools only graduate about half of their students.
Two Florida school systems are on the list. Palm Beach and Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa are vying for funds. A spokesperson for the Hillsborough County district says they've devised a plan that sounds similar to Tulsa's. He says they would change how they recruit, evaluate and reward teachers, tying their pay to performance.
Palm Beach is asking for $120 million from Gates to create a comprehensive teacher effectiveness system. The Palm Beach Post reports the district has discovered 70% of its teachers are ineffective. Just like TPS, Palm Beach wants to quit paying teachers based on seniority.
While TPS would focus on student performance, Palm Beach would base salaries on teachers' responsibilities and complexity of their jobs.
Memphis was very tight-lipped about their proposal, saying: "this is a competition." But, a spokesperson did say the district is asking for $150 million over five years.
In an e-mail to The News On 6, Superintendent Keith Ballard said he was extremely pleased with their presentation and it was well-received. He called the competition intense. And, he added, "No one got to this level who isn't very capable. Gates will have a tough time in this selection process."
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