Undeterred by the lack of support from the teachers union, Glendale Unified officials on Thursday said they’re submitting a 503-page application for what could be $40 million in federal Race to the Top grant money.
The decision to overnight the application despite a lack of support from the Glendale Teachers Assn. is not insignificant. Federal officials required local teachers unions to agree to the terms and conditions attached to the grant money, such as including student test scores in job evaluations.
After weeks of negotiations with the district, Glendale Teachers Assn. President Tami Carlson refused to lend her signature, mostly over concerns about the long-term costs of continuing to fund Race to the Top programs after the grant money is exhausted. Glendale Unified officials also refused to take the possibility of teacher layoffs next year off the table.
“We are going to be sending it off without a signature,” Supt. Dick Sheehan said. “We remain optimistic and hope that they’ll reconsider the needs, especially in California.”
School board President Christine Walters was less sure about the fate of the application, saying she was “fairly certain” it would be rejected without the union’s signature.
Glendale wasn’t the only district to go ahead with the Race to the Top competition without union buy-in. Los Angeles Unified Supt. John Deasy on Thursday instructed his staff to submit the grant application, saying in a statement that the district “should not be penalized due to the absence of a [union] signature,” despite best efforts to build a coalition of support.
In refusing to sign Glendale Unified’s application, Carlson said it was “not an answer” to the financial hardship facing the district.
“The idea that this money is going to help with the financial crisis that we’re in is incorrect,” Carlson said, adding that the district would need to commit additional funds to support the programs once the grant money is gone. “That money could be better used to keep the teachers in the classroom.”
Glendale Unified officials outlined plans to use the grant money to create up to 55 teacher specialist or counselor positions and increase technology efforts by adding robotics programs to every school. The grant cannot be spent on teacher salaries.
At least 15 teachers wrote letters to Carlson urging her to sign the grant as of Wednesday, she said.
Negotiations between the union and Glendale Unified came to a halt this week after the district refused to take a potential early retirement offer or layoffs of up to 125 teachers off the table.
“We received over 70 letters of support from local community groups, so there was clearly strong community support in favor of the grant,” Walters said in an email. “This grant also had over 50 teacher jobs included, so at a time when we know that layoffs are highly likely, I don’t understand why the union leadership would not want to support additional jobs.”
Sheehan also had strong words for union leaders.
“This just became another tool for them to try to negotiate health care and other things completely unrelated to the grant,” he said. “Unfortunately, the students are the losers.”
Upon learning district officials would send the grant application without her signature, Carlson said it was “their prerogative.”
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter @kellymcorrigan.