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So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Individual school districts can now compete for federal grants in Race For The Top; good news for LAUSD?

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For the first time ever, individual school districts may apply for the Obama Administration’s highly competitive Race to the Top grants — and that could mean good news for Los Angeles Unified.

LAUSD has wanted the money, but it couldn’t get the respect. Just last year, Gov. Jerry Brown refused to support its joint application with public school districts in Long Beach, San Francisco and Sacramento. 

A change in the rules means districts that want their reform policies to line up with the Obama administration’s may compete for grants up to $25 million on their own. 

The requirements are the same: programs must target low-income students and must factor those kids’ progress into teacher evaluations. 

That’s been a major point of tension so far. Unions, including United Teachers Los Angeles, have opposed including student test scores in job performance assessments. 

But without that, federal education secretary Arne Duncan’s made clear that districts don’t stand much of a chance in the competition for grants.

"We need the whole team — the [superintendent], the head of [the school] board and [the] union leader — doing this really important work," Duncan said. "And [when] folks are at each other’s throat, we think it’s probably not the best investment for us to make. So that local buy–in and commitment to reform is very important in terms of who we’re going to fund."

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy expressed confidence that the district’s fourth attempt will be the charm.

Deasy told KPCC’s Larry Mantle that L.A. Unified has already launched "transformational reforms" this year, and that he predicts they'll make for "an incredibly strong application." 

The federal government plans to award $400 million to as many as 20 districts throughout the country. 

The Education Department plans to finalize application rules by July, start accepting them in October and announce the grants in December.

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