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

Size matters in new district-level 'Race to the Top' competition

LAUSD board protesters

Tami Abdollah / KPCC

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside L.A. Unified headquarters downtown as the board met inside to discuss the district's dire budget picture. (March 2012) LAUSD hopes the new Race to the Top competition will bring it urgently needed funds.

The new Race to the Top application, which for the first time this year allows districts to apply directly to the federal government for the competitive awards, will also allow larger school districts to qualify for more money, said LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy.

Deasy said he had only just received the application information today and was reviewing it.

"I'm reading it literally as we speak," Deasy said. "I'm extremely pleased with what appears to be a major change in the Race to the Top application...a differentiation in awards based on the size of the district."

Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education, said the department plans to announce the application details Sunday. But all that remains clear from previous comments by federal education officials is that the majority of the $550 million pot will go to districts — far less than the $4 billion pot previously provided for Race to the Top competitions.

California has unsuccessfully tried to compete for these dollars thrice in the last two years, with it losing out last year because Gov. Jerry Brown refused to sign off. But for the first time this year districts will be allowed to apply directly to the federal government without working through their states.

Deasy and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have lobbied hard in Washington, D.C. for such changes to the competition. The district has worked to institute a lot of the previously required reforms on its own, including the collection of attendance data and a requirement that student performance be a factor in teacher evaluations.

judge's recent ruling requires the district to include student test data in teacher evaluations by Dec. 4.

Allowing districts to qualify for larger awards based on their size is especially good news for L.A. Unified, which is the nation's second-largest school district, Deasy said. He said the district plans to apply for "the maximum" in funds to help with a tough budget year.

Deasy said applications are due by Oct. 30, which will give the district "decent time" to put together an application. He said the award will be given in December.

Tami Abdollah can be reached via email and on Twitter (@latams).

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