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Southland schools come up empty in contest for federal grants

No district or organization in the region qualified for Race to the Top money. Green Dot Public Schools could have received $30 million but fell short.

December 11, 2012|By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
  • Jordan High School will undergo major change in the upcoming school year as the campus will be split between three organizations: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, Green Dot Public Schools and Alliance College-Ready Public Schools.
Jordan High School will undergo major change in the upcoming school year… (Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles…)

Southern California schools have been shut out of a high-profile federal grant competition, according to results announced Tuesday.

The one regional finalist for the latest round of Race to the Top grants was a charter school organization, Green Dot Public Schools, that could have received $30 million. But its bid fell just short.

The charter's proposal included expanding student wellness centers to provide social, physical and mental health services in support of academics; purchasing new technology, including tablet computers; and instituting a system to track and support high school graduates in college.

Green Dot's application earned 193.67 points from evaluators; the cutoff for awards was a score of 196.33.

Chief Executive Marco Petruzzi said that although he was disappointed about not getting the funds, the organization would still work toward the steps outlined in its proposal.

The Los Angeles Unified School District had also entered the competition but didn't make the final round, in large measure because the teachers union would not endorse the application as required.

United Teachers Los Angeles said the money could have committed the district to costly and questionable policies. The district said the funds would have gone toward efforts to help students that were already underway.

The application required unions to commit to using data measuring students' academic growth in the district's teacher evaluations. At the application deadline, L.A. Unified and the union were in negotiations over such a system; they have since reached a tentative accord on the issue.

Initially, only states could apply for the grants — and California was unsuccessful. In the latest round, school districts could apply directly; it was an opportunity for which L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy had lobbied federal officials. L.A. Unified could have qualified for a $40-million grant.

California was not shut out entirely. The state winners were the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District, south of Sacramento; Lindsay Unified School District, east of Tulare; and New Haven Unified School District, south of Oakland. Galt and Lindsay will each receive $10 million; New Haven will get $29.4 million. The amounts are based mostly on the size of the school system.

The Galt district, which has about 3,900 students, earned the third-highest rating among the 16 winning applications nationally.

The district "has established a comprehensive, high quality reform vision," one scorer wrote.

Another said: "This district has a poverty rate of 65% and the area has an unemployment rate of 17% and yet, last year, the district tied for [the] highest academic performance index rating" in its county. "This proposal demonstrated a comprehensive, innovative and thorough approach."

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