WUOMFM

Battle Creek Public Schools to get $51 million boost from new grant

May 5, 2017

Battle Creek Public Schools is getting an extra $51 million to spend over the next five years. 

The money comes in the form of a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. It represents about a 20% annual increase in funding for the district, compared to the current budget.

"Today we are saying we want to support and target our support where the need is the greatest," said Lajune Montgomery Tabron, president of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. "So that our hometown will rise and thrive."

Tabron cited a recent study, commissioned by the foundation, by a researcher at New York University. The study found economic and racial segregation in the Battle Creek area, which led to fewer opportunities for students in Battle Creek Public Schools. 

State data show three-quarters of the students in Battle Creek Public Schools last year were considered economically disadvantaged. The new grant money will go toward extra services for kids in every grade at the district.

According to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, that will include:

  • Recruitment and retention incentives for teachers, as well as professional development
  • A full day pre-kindergarten summer transition program
  • Extended pre-kindergarten school year
  • Implementation of an Intermediate STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academy
  • High school college pathways program, including an early middle college program, an International Baccalaureate program and academies aligned with fields of interest
  • Enhanced academic program supports for all learners
  • Comprehensive behavior education plan focused on alternatives to school suspension
  • Investments in the arts and athletics
  • Early literacy support personnel

At an announcement ceremony this morning in Battle Creek, superintendent Kim Carter said the infusion of money will help the district transform.

"Our district has had its struggles, unacceptably so," she said. "Students and teachers of Battle Creek Public Schools, like so many other urban districts, have been provided with inadequate resources, but they have been expected to provide and achieve equal outcomes."

David Kirkland, a researcher at New York University who led the study on improving Battle Creek schools, said on a conference call this morning that the new grant is unique in the country.

"I'm looking at this closely," Kirkland said on a conference call with reporters. "Because I haven't seen anything like it. I haven't seen, you know, an organization invest so much into a system with the belief that we can actually turn that system around."

Speaking this morning at the announcement ceremony, Carter made that goal explicit to the students gathered to hear the news. 

"We see you, we believe in you and all of this is about you and for you," Carter said, directing her comments directly at students. "You are strong. You have choices and you will succeed."