California tries again for federal education money |

California tries again for federal education money

Judy Lin
Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California education leaders submitted an application Tuesday for the second round of a federal school-funding competition, hoping to capture as much as $700 million for the state’s troubled public school system.

California was among dozens of states that lost out in the initial round of competition for $4.3 billion in federal stimulus money being made available through the “Race to the Top” initiative.

So far, Delaware and Tennessee have been the only states approved for money designed to reward states that make education reforms being promoted by the Obama administration.

Under California’s latest application, teachers and principals would be evaluated in part based on student performance. The state also would try to place effective teachers in low-performing schools and make better use of student data to measure progress.

Schwarzenegger said the state plan meets every goal set forth in the federal program.

California’s public schools rank near the bottom in most achievement categories and have faced budget problems that have forced the layoffs of thousands of teachers. About 20,000 pink slips have gone out to California teachers so far this year.

The governor signed California’s second “Race to the Top” application during an event in Long Beach. He was accompanied by state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and Ted Mitchell, president of the state school board.

California’s initial application was for the entire state. It was filed after state lawmakers wrangled for weeks before passing a package of school reform measures in January that contained changes opposed by the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union.

The new application was developed by a group of seven superintendents from San Francisco, Sacramento, Clovis, Fresno, Sanger, Long Beach and Los Angeles. If approved, it would apply only to certain school districts and charter schools representing about 27 percent of California’s 6.3 million public school students.

The U.S. Education Department is expected to announce the winners of the second phase in September.

While $700 million would help, it would do little to compensate for budget cuts.

During the past three years, California’s budget deficits have led to a 12 percent cut in K-12 funding. The state now spends $44 billion in overall K-12 funding, compared to $50.3 billion in 2007-08, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

The cutbacks prompted a coalition of students, school districts and education groups to sue the state, demanding the court declare the current school finance system unconstitutional because California doesn’t provide enough money to cover its educational mandates and programs.

Schwarzenegger said more money won’t solve California’s education problems.

“There’s no such thing as increasing funding and just throwing more money at a broken system,” the governor said. “We need to straighten out our system.”

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