The District operates a program for at risk elementary students at Taylor Elementary School ("Taylor") in Cedar Rapids, Iowa through a competitive grant. The program currently provides additional resources for small group instruction in both reading and math in grades K-3. The K-3 Innovative Program Grants ("K-3 Grant") is a grant program available to eligible Iowa public elementary school applicants in a year which funds are appropriated by the Iowa Legislature and are awarded through a competitive grant process. Iowa Administrative Code 281?7 governs criteria for grants and the grant application process.On or about June 3, 2016 the Application for the K-3 Grant was available on the Iowa Department of Education's Website. The purpose of the K-3 Grant is to provide funds to assist districts in addressing the needs of kindergarten through third grade students who are at risk of educational failure. Grant applications were due on June 30, 2016.
Taylor is one of the District's most at risk buildings in the district with at risk ranges from 51%-71% in grades K-5. They have been receiving the K-3 Grant since 2009 and it would be a substantial loss of services to these students. On June 30, 2016, which is the day grant applications were due, Taylor was transitioning from the old principal, Brian Christopherson ("Mr. Christopherson"), to a new principal, Andrea Scott ("Ms. Scott"). As a result of this transition Ms. Dolezal testified that the application for Taylor was as strong as it could have been. Ms. Scott worked with Mr. Christopherson to complete the application and turned it in on her first day working in the building and the final day for submission of the grant.
Subsequently, on August 18, 2016, the District received a letter notifying them that their grant application had been denied. Ms. Dolezal believes the transition and the confusion with the form contributed to the reasons that Taylor did not get the grant. The District also had three other elementary schools that applied for the K-3 Grant and were successful in being awarded the grant. All applicants including the other schools in the district completed the same revised application.
The District argues that the changes to the application from the 2015-2016 to 2016-2017 created confusion and were not reasonable changes for an individual who was new to the position and completing the application on the last day. However, nowhere in the rule does it allow for an appeal of a grant denial on the basis that the applicant did not have adequate time to fill out the application. The rule here contemplates appeals on the basis that the Department did not provide adequate public notice of the grant application or that the Department did not provide adequate public notice that the grant application was altered. There was no evidence that the Department failed to do either here. In fact, the District has three other schools in the District that also applied for and received a grant award.
Although, they met the timeline for the application, the quality of the application was not as good as other grant applications. This is a competitive grant process and quality is a factor that must be weighed.
For the foregoing reason, the appeal herein is DENIED. The District is encouraged to re-apply for funding at the next opportunity.