Race to the Top Funding Lausd Has Time, but Not Support Education: Superstorm Sandy Pushes Back Application Deadline, but Unions Won't Budge on Teacher Evaluations

By Jones, Barbara | Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), October 30, 2012 | Go to article overview

Race to the Top Funding Lausd Has Time, but Not Support Education: Superstorm Sandy Pushes Back Application Deadline, but Unions Won't Budge on Teacher Evaluations


Jones, Barbara, Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)


Superstorm Sandy gave Southern California school districts a few extra days to send their applications to Washington, D.C., for $400 million in Race to the Top grants.

But even with the extra time, several school district say they have to pass on the "free money" because local teachers unions won't sign off on the applications - an eligibility requirement.

Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy and United Teachers Los Angeles officers met last week and talked over the weekend but the union refused to sign off on the district's hefty application for the $40 million grant.

The applications were due at the Department of Education in Washington D.C. today, but the deadline was pushed back because mail and deliveries were delayed by Sandy, which is being called a superstorm because of its size.

The two sides resumed informal discussions on Monday after the deadline was extended because of Sandy, but still couldn't reach an agreement.

"It seems that UTLA can't sign the grant," said a frustrated Deasy. "Their reasoning is difficult to pin down. I don't understand it."

UTLA President Warren Fletcher said the union analyzed the district's proposal, which focused on keeping middle school students on track for high school graduation, and determined that the numbers simply didn't pencil out.

"Race to the Top costs more than it brings in," Fletcher said. "You're essentially setting up a system with a lot of bureaucracy, and those pieces have to stay in place after the grant period."

Fletcher said previous concerns about a more rigorous teacher evaluation - a requirement of Race to the Top - weren't a contentious issue since the UTLA and the district are already negotiating a new system under a court order.

Still, he said, "There were enough issues out there that were complex enough that we could not get to the point where we could get together with the district."

Race to the Top grants have previously been awarded at only the state level, with California losing out on its two bids for funding.

The first-ever district grants focus on efforts to reform underperforming schools and close the achievement gap among struggling students. Just 15 to 20 allocations will be made, with $10 million for the smallest districts up to $40 million for large districts like LAUSD.

Glendale Unified hoped to win $40 million, with plans to hire 60 teachers and counselors to help struggling elementary and middle school students in the 26,250-student district.

Superintendent Richard Sheehan said Glendale Unified's 70-page application was strong, and would have helped close the achievement gap among English-learners and students with special needs.

However, the union balked because district officials could not guarantee there wouldn't be layoffs if Proposition 30 fails next week at the polls and schools statewide lose $5. …

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