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NCLB Outrages

Most Calif. schools bow out of $700M grant contest

Ohanian Comment: This is good news that some schools and teacher unions have found the courage to "just say no" to federal bribes. Now they need to form an alliance and speak loudly against Race to the Top.

Christina Hoag, Associated Press

Less than half of California school districts and only about a quarter
of teacher unions have promised to make key education reforms required
for the state to win $700 million in competitive federal grants,
officials said Wednesday.

Only 41 percent of school districts and 60 percent of eligible charter
schools signed on for changes needed to participate in the Obama
administration's Race to the Top contest in which states can win extra
federal funding to ease the impact of steep budget cuts.

Still, state education officials were hopeful California would be among
the states chosen in April to share about $4.35 billion. Officials note
that districts agreeing to the reforms represent 58 percent of the
state's public school students and almost 61 percent of students from
low-income families.

"We're very pleased with the turnout," said Hilary McLean, spokeswoman
for the California Department of Education. "We think we have a very
strong application. We're competitive."

School districts across the state have suffered severe funding cuts
during the past two years, resulting in thousands of teacher layoffs and
program cuts. More budget struggles are coming in the next academic
year, and the federal grants would be a welcome addition to schools'
dwindling coffers.

Los Angeles Unified plans to ask voters in June to ante up a temporary
parcel tax to help close an estimated $640 million deficit. The
district, the state's largest, has agreed to participate in the contest.

However, the reforms have gained scant support among teacher unions.
with only 26 percent of unions signed off on their district's
application. Union approval is not necessary for participation in Race
to the Top but will be considered since reforms are more likely to be
adopted if teachers support them, McLean said.

A key sticking point for unions is a requirement that teacher
evaluations be tied to student test scores.

"It is simply not fair or constructive," California Teachers Association
President David Sanchez wrote in a letter last year to U.S. Education
Secretary Arne Duncan.

If chosen, California would receive half the grant money and distribute
the other half to school districts that agreed to make the changes
backed by the federal education department.

The reforms include improving systems to track student performance,
enhancing teacher and principal development, turning around
low-performing schools and adopting international standards to measure
student progress.

— Christina Hoag, Associated Press
Fresno Bee


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