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School board signs up to Race to the Top

The Spokane School Board voted 3-2 Wednesday to support the state’s application for federal Race to the Top funds.

School Board Director Jeff Bierman was opposed, as was board President Susan Chapin.

“I’m voting no because I think it’s a bad idea,” Bierman said. “It’s not a no vote against reform. It’s a vote against federal control.”

Vice President Bob Douthitt, in supporting the measure, said. “I see a lot of upside to signing on, and really no downside to say yes.”

Meanwhile, the Spokane Education Association also announced Wednesday that the union is backing the application.

Backing from a majority of Washington’s school districts, as well as the unions, is considered a key to being competitive in winning a share of the $3.4 billion in grants.

“Although there are aspects of the Race to the Top process which are flawed and leave a lot to be desired, it was our belief – as those on the frontline every day with our students – that the benefits ultimately outweighed the concerns,” said Jenny Rose, the association president. “In these tough economic times, we need to work together on finding additional revenue for our students and public education.”

Millions of dollars will be granted to the state with the best K-12 school reform plan. In Washington, that includes plans for tougher teacher and principal evaluations, curriculum to make students more competitive in math and science, and improving early-childhood education. Washington’s grant request is for $250 million.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 84 of 295 districts statewide had signed on.

If Washington wins the grant, 40 school districts in Spokane and the surrounding area would split about $3 million annually. Spokane Public Schools would receive about $1.6 million.