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[Susan notes: What a terrific letter both supportive of schools and knowledegable about the real problem.]

Published in San Francisco Chronicle

To the editor

Wrong-way race

I commend Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums for declining to join nine California mayors in jumping on Education Secretary Arne Duncan's Race to the Top bandwagon (Dellums ducks out of mayor's coalition, Chip Johnson, Jan. 5).

Parents and dedicated teachers in my community tell me that instead of excessive testing and ranking, which Race to the Top calls for, teachers need more support to create a positive learning community for all children, especially the most vulnerable.

[Race to the Top] Guidelines suggest replacing the entire staff of a struggling school. Cities like Richmond that are struggling with crime look for ways to give more support to our police officers. We would never consider simply replacing all of them.

In both education and crime, the root cause of gross income inequality (the most consistent indicator of social ills) must also be addressed. Dellums is right to call for federal policies to reduce the broad U.S. wealth gap.

If California applies for competitive Race to the Top funds, it might get around $50 per pupil. Another way to get that sum for sure would be to discontinue California's high school exit exam, which has been shown to be ineffective.

Gayle McLaughlin is the mayor of Richmond, CA.

Gayle McLaughlin

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