LBUSD Helps California Become a Finalist for Race to Top Funds

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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state's top education officials had a signing ceremony at LBUSD's Lafayette Elementary School last month before submitting the Race to the Top application.

The U.S. Department of Education announced today that California is one of 19 finalists for federal Race to the Top funding, which could bring between $18 million and $26 million to the Long Beach Unified School District.

LBUSD was one of seven California school systems that helped to develop the state’s latest application for up to $700 million in funding. California is vying with other states to win competitive grants under the Obama administration program. Although the state’s first application was rejected, California officials have revised their application in hopes of claiming a share of the second round of funding.

“We’re encouraged by today’s announcement, which is an important vote of confidence by the U.S. Department of Education,” said LBUSD Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser. “Our school district played a key role in developing California’s latest application for funds. We worked closely with other California school districts and policymakers at the state and national levels, and we deeply appreciate their support.”

The ultimate goal is to improve student achievement, Steinhauser said.

“We also want to make sure Long Beach maintains a foothold on the national scene as these reforms evolve,” Steinhauser added. “Our aim is to help state and national lawmakers craft school reforms, using some of Long Beach’s successful practices, instead of waiting for change to be imposed upon us.”

The Race to the Top winners will be announced in September. The application for the funding is part of LBUSD’s concerted efforts to raise student achievement while reducing the need for layoffs and other cuts necessitated by California’s ongoing budget crisis.

LBUSD’s Board of Education approved 357 layoffs for teachers, counselors and social workers earlier this month to help cope with the ongoing state budget crisis. The number of final layoff notices was unprecedented for the school district, which has cut more than $170 million over the past three years and plans to reduce its budget by another $100 million over the next two years. The school district also has reduced administration by more than 18 percent over the last five years, and it has made repeated and significant cuts in central operations such as food services, transportation, maintenance and other areas.

Because of Long Beach’s leading role in the state’s latest Race to the Top application, several California school superintendents joined Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state’s top education officials last month at LBUSD’s Lafayette Elementary School for a signing ceremony before submitting the latest application to the U.S. Department of Education.

Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia applied for part of the remaining $3.4 billion available under the Race to the Top competition. The newly named finalists are Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

The education Department used a panel of outside judges to score each application based on 19 criteria, including willingness to open charter schools, efforts to link teacher evaluations to student achievement and dedication to transforming the lowest-performing schools. States were graded on a scale of zero to 500 points.

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