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Schwarzenegger, other top officials submit bid for 'Race to the Top' school-reform money


State officials on Tuesday formally submitted their application in Round 2 of the competition for the lucrative but controversial federal “Race to the Top” school-reform grants.

In a ceremony at Lafayette Elementary School in Long Beach, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed California’s application along with state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and state Board of Education President Ted Mitchell.

"The goal is really quite simple," O’Connell said, "to have an effective teacher in front of every classroom, to have a true school leader at every school site and to have the necessary infrastructure and support at the school site to help deliver services to our students."

If successful, the state could receive up to $700 million in one-time funding to carry out specified reforms, including linking teacher and principal evaluations to student performance, placing the most effective educators in struggling schools and making better use of data to improve teaching. The plan also embraces the federal emphasis on replacing staff at “failing” schools and converting some of them to independently run charter schools, most of which are non-union.

The grant would provide a needed financial infusion as cash-strapped districts statewide are resorting to laying off teachers and shortening the school year to balance budgets.

Key participants in the bid are Long Beach Unified and Los Angeles Unified, the nation’s second-largest school system. Earlier this year, the state failed in the Round 1 contest, from which only Delaware and Tennessee emerged as winners. California almost abandoned a second try, but federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan personally urged Schwarzenegger not to give up, officials said.

In the current bid, California has opted to put together a more aggressive package spearheaded by a "working group" of seven school districts rather than settling for a watered-down application that would attract more widespread buy-in. In the end, 123 school systems signed on.

Teachers unions, for the most part, rejected the application. That fact could diminish the state’s chances at winning, given the scoring system.

At the news conference, the governor touted the participation of 40 unions. However, only 17 unions representing school districts are taking part. Another 17 unions listed in the state count are actually employee groups from individual charter schools operated by Green Dot Public Schools.

"We want to have every school be outstanding, an equal education for every child," Schwarzenegger said in response to a question about union involvement. "That’s what we’re trying to accomplish here. …
In this case, so many came together, so we have a good shot at getting that done. I’m very excited."

Of the three largest participating districts, only Fresno Unified achieved a union endorsement.

The L.A. teachers union raised concerns that the one-time money would create new costly, questionable mandates that would strain budgets over the long term. And it joined the Long Beach teachers union in raising concerns about the linking of teacher evaluations to student scores on standardized tests.

“The application has some very large changes to the way we do business in our classrooms, tying evaluations and pay and your job to student test scores,” said Mike Day, president of the Teachers Assn. of Long Beach. “That’s quite a sea change for us, for our members.”

Day added that his union had only one week to review the document and could offer no input into its final form.

A Long Beach Unified spokesman said teachers would be involved in how the money would be used if the state is successful.

“We fully understand we need to work with the teachers union,” said Chris Eftychiou. “But we thought it would be more dangerous to do nothing. We need those resources that the federal government is offering.”

-- Howard Blume

Photo: From left, State Board of Education President Ted Mitchell, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell sign California's "Race to the Top" Round 2 application at Lafayette Elementary School in Long Beach on Tuesday. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (4)

How outrageous is it that the LA teachers Union opposes this attempt to get federal money for our schools?

What else would you do? California needs the money, and to do a better job at educating our children. Get past the ESL classes, and force kids to grow.

This is dead on arrival.

The Titanic is sinking and the unions and LA Board Members have commandeered the lifeboats and life-vests. The message: Students fend for yourselves!

The "fat cat banks" on Wall Street wanted bailout money, and they got it. The government will not make the same mistake twice by giving money without requiring accountability.

Every day, residents of California are told how desperately money is needed for "vital" programs at our schools. We read out teacher rallies, the scary "privatization," the importance of "neighborhood schools" not being run by outsiders??

Yet, when it comes to public dollars the LAUSD, and its puppet masters at the UTLA, have done nothing but neglect the children of this city.

Here is what the unions have said to the taxpayers, and the students who live in this city:

Bond Money in the Billions - We will take it, overspend by billions, and determine who runs the schools as long as they are not held accountable - and report to us. NO OUTSIDERS, even if it means better academic performance.

Measure E Parcel Tax - Yes. The District, and its children, needs it desperately to save "vital" programs. Oh by the way, we will endorse this only if not a single penny of the taxpayer money goes to charter schools who serve public school children in this community.

Federal Dollars from Obama - WE LOVE OBAMA! The support of Obama by the LAUSD, California Teachers Union, AFT, UTLA, etc... was unanimous! Wait, Obama will only give us billions of dollars if we begin to serve the children of this state better. Hold on, does the Obama administration have a problem with our horrific test scores, reading levels, and 50% drop-out rates? How dare him! Who is he to say that we can't keep incompetent teachers on the payroll (In fact, we have over 160 teachers in LAUSD who are paid not to teach, to the tune of $ 10M a year).

These discussions have nothing to do with serving children; they have everything to do with protecting the status quo.

One question: Does LAUSD, and its masters at the UTLA, have a single academic achievement to showcase to the residents of this city with all the billions they have been given?

LAUSD former students cannot pass a basic math class on line in a CA community college. The reason is that they do not study on their own. The only time these students see a math problem is when they are using the school's computer. These students do not attend tutoring classes either. You people are blaming the teachers when it is the students, and the parents of these students.
The teachers are only 1/3 of the problems. You are not responsible for your job 24/7, but you feel that teachers should be responsible for these students 24/7? Parents are only responsible for their children 24/7. Parents have children, but want the teachers to be responsible for their children. Were your parents responsible for you or had someone else to be responsible for you? Parents have changed too much since the 60s, and that is one of the reasons why the education system is down hill. There are still parents out there that have their children study, and do their homework. Furthermore, the rest gives them a bad name.


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