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California loses out in first phase of Race to the Top grant funding
TUSD opts out of competition
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The U.S. Department of Education announced on March 29 the two winners for the first phase of the Race to the Top competition and California was not one of them. In fact, California didn’t even place in the top 25.
Winning the top two spots for the first phase of the competition was Delaware and Tennessee. Delaware will receive $100 million and Tennessee will receive $500 million, leaving a pot of about $3.4 billion for the second phase competitors.
Even though California didn’t win in the first phase of the competition, school districts in the state will still be required to follow the education reform which was signed into law on Jan. 7. The reform was signed into law to better the state’s odds of winning Race to the Top grant money.
The education reform requires the implementation of turn-around strategies for schools placed in the bottom 5 percent of persistently low-performing schools, allows California parents to choose the school that best serves their children by authorizing open enrollment for students in the low-performing schools, the right for a parent to petition and require school boards to fix failing schools and the creation of a student-teacher data system that may be used by local districts to evaluate teachers and principals subject to collective bargaining.
California can still enter in the second phase of the competition — the deadline is  June 1 — but if the state still doesn’t receive grant money, school districts all over California will be forced by law to enforce the two senate bills, X5 1 and X5 4, under the education reform.
The Turlock Unified School District must follow the two senate bills under the education reform even though they opted out of receiving funds from the Race to the Top competition if California does win grant money. But the district isn’t too worried.
“TUSD can carry on business as usual,” said Lacrisha Ferriera, TUSD assistant superintendent for educational services.
The reason why TUSD isn’t worried is because “this is nothing new, we have already been doing this,” she said.  
Under the education reform, if the TUSD has schools placed in the bottom 5 percent of persistently low-performing schools they would have to implement one of four turn-around methods. Currently, TUSD has no schools on that list. The district is also required to allow parents to have their child switch schools if they attend a low-performing school. TUSD has five elementary schools placed on that list and parents already have the option of changing their child’s school. Regardless if California receives money in the second phase of the Race to the Top competition, the TUSD will not be affected, according to Ferriera
To contact Maegan Martens, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.