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In the competition to secure federal Race to the Top funding, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is not being considered as a finalist, likely due to the district’s application lacking its union’s signature.
Had the application been considered and approved, LAUSD would have been the first district in the nation to receive Race to the Top funding without a union signature, board member Steve Zimmer, 4th District, said.
“I think that [with] anything that could bring revenue to the district, losing the opportunity for that is unfortunate,” he said. “Certainly, our preference is to apply for anything and everything that could potentially bring revenue to our kids and our teachers. …It was the kind of thing where everybody would have to embrace it.”
If awarded, the grant could have yielded approximately $40 million for the district. United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), however, felt that the grant could cost the district money in the long run and had too many requirements.
In a previous interview, Zimmer said he understood UTLA’s reluctance to sign the application. He said the funding could have increased the district’s overhead costs.
“It was not general fund money,” Zimmer added. “It was very, very specific money for a very specific program for a specific set of schools.”
While any loss of potential revenue is “certainly disappointing,” it would not have buoyed the district had Prop. 30 not passed, he said. Zimmer said the bigger issue facing the district is the possibility of federal sequestration that could result in a “9.5 percent hit to all entitlement programs.”
“Without Prop. 30, everything would have been tougher,” he said. “A failure of Prop. 30 and lack of Race to the Top funding — that really wasn’t the fear. The fear was losing Prop. 30 and then facing sequestration. …Doomed is not too strong a word.”
Zimmer said the federal financial discussions could impact the district’s Title I funding. More than 70 percent of the district’s students qualify for Title I funding, so additional cuts could have a “significant” impact on the LAUSD, he said.
“We’re talking major funding, major impact if there is not any federal solution,” Zimmer added.
However, the board member believes that the district should not dwell on the Race to the Top funding and move on to other obstacles. He said the district needs to have strategies for the new Congress, the new Legislature and the sequestration possibility.
“I think we need to dust off and move on,” Zimmer added.
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