The U.S. Department of Education announced 61 finalists today in the Race to the Top grant competition. Those that made the cut represent more than 200 public school districts — but L.A. Unified was not one.
L.A. Unified Superintendent John Deasy submitted the application for $40 million in federal dollars earlier this month without the required signature of support from UTLA.
Four California districts were named finalists: Green Dot Public Schools: Animo Leadership Charter High School, in Lennox; Galt Joint Union School District, near Stockton; Lindsay Unified School District, east of Tulare; and New Haven Unified School District, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Other finalists included New York City Public Schools, Boston Public Schools and Baltimore City Public Schools.
The U.S. Department of Education plans to make 15 to 25 of the four-year awards ranging from $5 million to $40 million, depending on the population of the students served.
The competition, launched in 2009, originally required states to apply; this was the first time school districts could apply directly for nearly $400 million in federal dollars. The federal agency made the change after heavy lobbying from Los Angeles officials, including Deasy and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
California has unsuccessfully competed for Race to the Top dollars three times in the last two years. Each time it's lost out because of budgetary or political reasons. For L.A. Unified, the nation's second-largest school district, both those factors may have come into play this time.
UTLA President Warren Fletcher said the union had concerns about the cost of putting ongoing reforms into effect during tough budget times.
And the issue of including student test data in teacher evaluations — required under the competition rules — has tangled negotiations between district and union officials in the past. The teachers' union is still working with the school district on the details of such a new evaluation system, which is due by a court-ordered deadline of Dec. 4.
The 61 finalists were selected from 372 applications, according to the Department of Education. Other California districts that didn't make the cut include Riverside Unified, Glendale Unified, Fresno Unified, Fullerton Unified and Montebello Unified.
The awards are expected to be announced before the end of this year.