Race to Nowhere

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We're lost again. California didn't qualify for the first round of President Obama's "Race to the Top" grant fund for schools.

We were rejected transparently, and won't see any of the newly minted $4 billion set aside to effectively transform the public school system in California. Apparently, the states that won this money provided "ambitious yet achievable, coherent, compelling and comprehensive reforms that would transform their schools for decades to come."

I went to the website to review California's application. I waited after clicking on the link. Then I was met with this message: "File damaged. Could not be repaired."

That about says it all.

As a California teacher I lament the loss of a great deal of money. As a San Francisco teacher I realize we never really had a chance. Some of the criteria for receiving big money is that states show leadership reforms not only in improved standards and assessments, but in the development and retention of effective teachers. A lofty goal, that California -- particularly San Francisco -- was doing until recently.


That was when layoff notices were mailed out, teachers were told that class sizes were to increase from 20 to 27 or 34, and essential school programs like Music and P.E. were reduced or eliminated completely. Great teachers would be consolidated unless they taught in "protected" programs like bilingual classes and special education.

Quality schools start with excellent teaching practice, and end with social support systems. Central to this concept is sustainable budgeting to keep core programs from disappearing and reappearing at the whim of legislators, administrators and decision makers who spend far too much time debating which team is smarter.

So this year in California, children of lower socioeconomic backgrounds will again suffer inadequate education because of a lack of funding, and these budget cuts are perhaps the biggest lesson on social justice my students will ever learn. The irony is -- I don't want them to.

With a Perspective, I'm Stephen Lavezzo.