Huffpost Los Angeles

California Denied Education Stimulus Funds...Again

Posted: Updated:

This story comes courtesy of California Watch

By Louis Freedberg

It was bad enough that California, with a population of 36.9 million, was rejected by the Obama administration in its request for hundreds of millions of dollars in federal education Race to the Top funds.

In that grant competition, Delaware and Tennessee, with populations of only 885,000 and 6.2 million respectively, were the winners, walking away with $600 million between the two of them.

Now, California's application for improving its longitudinal data system to track students from pre-kindergarten through high school, college and into the workplace has also been given the cold shoulder. The system would have allowed the state to assess the effectiveness of its education programs, as well as monitor the progress of students through the entire education system.

As I wrote in January, for months data experts from the California Department of Education, the University of California, CSU and community college system worked together to come up with a proposal for the data-tracking system, for $20 million out of a total pot of $245 million.

But the state has just heard that its application has been turned down. This time California was aced out by some 20 other states, which will receive hefty grants ranging from $19.7 million (New York) and $17.5 million (Virginia) to $9.6 million (Utah) and $7.3 million (Maine). What's more, unlike with the Race to the Top competition, it does not appear as if there will be another round for which California can apply this year, as the U.S. Department of Education has now given out all the available funds.

California has worked for years to set a system known as CALPADS (California Longitudinal Pupil Data System) for tracking some 6 million students from kindergarten through 12th grade. What is still missing is tying this data to data from student performance at California's community colleges, CSU and UC, and the ability to follow students into the workforce as well.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell called the rejection of California's request "deeply disappointing."

That's almost certainly an understatement. What must rub salt in the wounds of those who put the proposal together is that in order to compete for additional federal grants, the Obama administration is more or less requiring states to establish tracking systems like the one California is willing to adopt.

But without federal funds to set it up, it is unlikely to happen because of the state's horrendous financial situation. That in turn could make it more difficult for California to compete for other desperately needed federal funds to support its multi-billion dollar, and cash-starved, education enterprise.