ANCHORAGE -

The U.S. Department of Education is granting more than $1.5 million to under-performing schools and school districts in Alaska, but state education officials haven't said how that money will be spent.

In all, five states will receive more than $85 million through the School Improvement Grants program.

In addition to Alaska, states like New York (with $36 million), Illinois ($22 million), Pennsylvania ($18.4 million) and South Carolina ($7.2 million) will also be getting grants.

The grants are designed to improve the "persistently lowest-achieving schools" in each state, the department says.

The federal funds will be disbursed by state education agencies that will then make sub-grants to qualifying school districts in each state.

"That's a pretty typical amount to receive in a year," said state Department of Education and Early Development spokesman Eric Fry.

Fry said the money will be set aside in anticipation of an additional $1.5 million in 2015.

“Our expectation is to take this year’s money and combine it with next year’s $1.5 million and offer that $3 million through a competitive grant process,” Fry said. The school districts would apply for the funds and get sub-grants to spend typically over a three-year period.

In the past, Fry said schools spend the funds on implement improvement plans for teacher’s professional development, as well as research-based instruction programs for the classroom.

The money would be available for schools to spend by 2015 and 2016.

Normally the money is divided between three schools, but combining it with next year’s money would likely split the money among six schools, Fry said.

Currently three Alaska schools are using similar grants from past years, including the Shishmaref School in the Bering Straits School District, which received $539,460 in 2012, $498,498 in 2013, and $492,805 for 2014.

The Stebbins Tukurngailnguq School similarly received more than $1 million through 2014, and Raven Correspondence home school program with $1.6 million over a three-year period.