On July 24, 2009, President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced draft eligibility and selection criteria for states to compete for $4.35 billion in discretionary funding for education. The program is now known as "Race to the Top" funding, and is the largest pool of discretionary education funding from the federal government in U.S. history.
On Monday, the California Senate Education Committee passed Senate Bill X5 1(SB X5 1- Romero) on a 5-0 bipartisan vote.
According to Senator Gloria Romero's office, SB X5 1 is a comprehensive bill containing the necessary reforms to make California competitive for Race to the Top funds and requires the state to apply for Phase 1 funding of the program.
SB X5 1 requires school districts to use data to improve instruction and student performance, removes the state's cap on the number of charter schools, authorizes open enrollment for students in low-performing schools, and requires the state to develop a plan to implement reforms that will make California competitive for a Race to the Top grant.
According to an EdSource report issued in October 2009, competing for additional stimulus funds could require California to make substantial changes to its current policies to meet the requirements laid down by the federal government. The report also stated that California "may have trouble convincing the federal government that it is serious about taking aggressive actions to turn around struggling schools."
California has already begun to receive $670.4 million that the federal stimulus added to existing programs, including child care and development, education for the homeless (also known as the McKinney-Vento Act), child nutrition equipment, education technology, and Title I improvement programs.
Race to the Top applications will take place in two phases. Phase One opens in December 2009, with awards made in February or March of 2010, and Phase Two opens in late spring of 2010, with awards made by September 2010. There are two requirements for application eligibility: 1) the state must have approved Phase One and Two during fall 2009, and 2) the state must have no legal restrictions on using students achievement data to evaluate teachers and principals, which has been a controversial issue for California.
SB X5 1 was also authored by Senators Bob Huff (R-Glendora), Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), and Mark Wyland (R-Escondido). Senator Romero will hold one more informational hearing on the Race to the Top funds in San Jose on November 9, 2009 at the Santa Clara County Office of Education. The hearing will start at 10 a.m. and all are invited to attend.
The Orange County hearing has not been rescheduled at this time.