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California misses out on federal education funds

March 4, 2010 |  8:50 am

California was not selected as one of the finalists for a $4.35-billion competitive school-reform grant program, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Officials in the state were notified early Thursday morning.

California legislators, like lawmakers in other states, amended and wrote laws to qualify for a portion of the Race to the Top funding. These included several controversial proposals, including linking teachers' performance to their students' test scores. States were judged on a 500-point scale that examined the applicants' commitment to various reforms, including implementing more sophisticated data systems to track student progress and intervening in low-performing schools.

Several states, including Texas, did not apply for the first round of funding.

California could have received up to $700 million, according to federal officials.

It is unclear why California was not selected, but some experts were pessimistic about the state's chances because fewer than half of school districts and teachers unions agreed to sign an agreement requiring them to abide by the reforms.

The 16 finalists are: Colorado, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee.

California can apply for a second phase of funding this summer.

Race to the Top was a way for the Obama administration to pressure school districts to take on reforms -- if they had the political will to do so. Budget cuts to education led many states to make changes to become eligible for the federal dollars.

-- Jason Song and Howard Blume

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