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School Trustee Explains Why District Says No To ‘Race’ Funds

Audio

Aired 1/15/10

The San Diego Unified School District board president says there are legitimate reasons why the district is not competing for federal stimulus dollars tied to the Race To The Top program.

— The San Diego Unified School District board president says there are legitimate reasons why the district is not competing for federal stimulus dollars tied to the Race To The Top program.

The federal education program is dangling millions of dollars in front of states and school districts to encourage them to sign on to major education reforms. Those reforms include linking teacher evaluations to student test scores, letting parents petition to turn around a failing school, and giving parents more leeway in choosing schools.

School board president Richard Barrera understands why some people are upset with the district, but he says its unclear how all these federal and state reforms might affect the district as a whole.

He says the district wants to support reforms that make the most sense to local parents and educators.

“Our goal is to go out to those school communities and talk to parents, talk to teachers, talk to students, talk to principals,” Barrera says. “Our Race To The Top strategy is driven by what makes sense to local school communities -- not driven by what is coming down from Washington D.C. or Sacramento.”

However, a local faith-based organization called The San Diego Organizing Project says the district is turning its back on struggling schools by not competing in the federal Race To The Top program. San Diego Unified is the only large urban school district in California not applying for the grants.

SDOP leader Eva Vargas says San Diego Unified isn't giving the public straight answers as to why it is passing up this chance.

“This money is moving quick and there are unknowns, but we have not heard clear of specific justification as to how this money would endanger students and parents,” Vargas says. “The money is dedicated to our most struggling schools and go to our most neediest students.”

San Diego school officials say only eight schools might have benefited from the money. Roughly 2,500 students attend those schools. However, San Diego Unified is not alone. Fewer than half of the school districts in San Diego County are competing for the federal funds.

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