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LAUSD and other big districts can directly compete for Race to the Top money

Mayors Antonio Villaraigosa, Michael Bloomberg and Rahm Emanuel with Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the
Mayors Antonio Villaraigosa, Michael Bloomberg and Rahm Emanuel with Education Secretary Arne Duncan at the "Education Now: Cities At The Forefront of Reform" summit on Friday.
Kitty Felde/KPCC

So far, California’s been shut out of the federal education grants known as “Race to the Top.” But Education Secretary Federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants to open up the competition to individual school districts, soig districts like LAUSD will be in a position to compete with their own states for the money.

The announcement happened at an education forum that brought together the mayors and school superintendents of the nation’s three largest cities. Duncan said the government wants to be a good partner with local schools, and he offered districts a shot at half a billion dollars in federal grants. "The next round of 'Race to the Top' will be at district level competition."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is at the D.C. education summit with other big city mayors, had planned to push for such an arrangement, and others have also been proposing it for a while. California as a state has struggled with winning Race to the Top grant money. Critics blame the state’s teachers unions for fighting changes to state law on teacher evaluations.

Villaraigosa called it “good news” for Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. "The three school districts that are represented here are bigger than most states."

At the forum, mayors compared stories about the challenges to education reform. Villaraigosa praised New York and Chicago for challenging a bureaucracy that “doesn’t work for our kids.”

But Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pointed out that the mayor of Los Angeles has less control over the school district. "I don’t know how Antonio can be held accountable and yet not have control," he said. "It’s basically a catch-22. He’s accountable for improving the schools, yet he has no ability to actually influence."

L.A. School Superintendent John Deasy said L.A. uses the tools at its disposal: negotiation, regulation, legislation and occasionally litigation. 

Race to the Top ties student achievement to teacher performance.

This story has been updated.