Possible grant from Bill Gates Foundation could help Lake County schools

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LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Channel 9 has learned the Bill Gates Foundation may go over the Lake County School District's budget and recommend ways to cut some programs while boosting others.

The review is designed to improve student achievement and better prepare them for college, but it could mean some programs parents and students want would have to go.

The Lake County school board has struggled with lean budgets in recent years, but the Bill Gates Foundation could change that.

"Basically, they'll do a deep dive on our finances and our staffing levels and everything about Lake County schools," said district spokesman Chris Patton.

Lake schools are one of seven districts nationwide invited to apply for a grant from the foundation.

The Microsoft founder gives tens of millions of dollars away on a global level and the $1 million grant would include an overhaul of Lake's budget, helping find ways to cut some areas and shift that money to improve student achievement.

Board members insist it does not mean Bill Gates would be calling the shots.

"We are the ones who vote. We are the ones who approve it. You know, just because they make a recommendation doesn't mean we follow it," said board member Tod Howard.

The Gates advisors would compare Lake's budget to more academically successful school systems around the country.

District officials admit problems could arise when it's time to pitch various cuts to parents and teachers.

"There's going to be some tenuous times where people disagree about some of the things that need to be reallocated," said Patton.

Of the seven schools invited to apply for the Gates grant, only four will get it. The paperwork has to be in within a month and the district will find out whether they were approved by the end of May.