California schools not selected for Obama's 'Race to the Top' funding

California was not selected as one of the finalists for the first round of federal Race to the Top funding, the Obama Administration’s $4.35 billion effort to reshape the nation’s education system, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Thursday.

In San Luis Obispo County, the Lucia Mar Unified and Cayucos Elementary School districts, as well as the San Luis Obispo County Board of Education, had signed agreements to abide by changes proposed in federal education reforms required for the state to win up to $700 million in federal grants.

In a statement, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said: “This decision by the Obama Administration demonstrates that we need to be more aggressive and bolder in reforming our education system … I will continue to fight for additional education reforms to make California truly competitive for the billions of dollars our students desperately need – the people of California expect nothing less.”

Race to the Top is a federal competitive grant program designed to reward states working on reforms in four areas: adopting common education standards, building data systems that measure student success, improving efforts to train teachers and principals, and intervening in low-performing schools. The third area has become controversial because it proposes making student achievement data such as test scores a major factor in teacher and principal evaluations.

Winners from the 16 states chosen as finalists will be announced in April. Applications for the second phase of funding are due by June 1. More information about the program is available at www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html.

-- Cynthia Lambert