Even if San Diego Unified had decided to participate, only a handful of the district’s schools would qualify if California won more federal stimulus money, according to staff.

The school district is sitting out of the federal competition for more school stimulus money known as Race to the Top, making it ineligible for the money, at least for now. Board President Richard Barrera said it would be irresponsible to sign up without a clear picture of what California would ask of school districts in exchange for the funds.

“This is a political issue and people are jumping on board or not jumping on board with no analysis or understanding of what it means to the district,” Barrera said.

Critics have skewered board members for turning their noses up at potential funding in the middle of a budget crisis. Some parents had pushed the school district to join the race for financial reasons. But as it turns out, there aren’t many schools in San Diego Unified that would even qualify for the dollars if it had signed on.

Monica Henestroza, who oversees government relations for San Diego Unified, listed only eight schools as potential recipients in an e-mail to Interim Superintendent William Kowba, based on an analysis of test scores from last year. They include three of the schools-within-a-school at San Diego High (CIMA, Business and MVP Arts), two of the schools-within-a-school at Crawford High (IDEA and MVAS), an alternative high school (Twain) and two schools that focus on children with special needs.

Why are so few schools eligible? The feds have generally stated that the money is for the lowest 5 percent of schools, but California has added more restrictions. Struggling schools that have gained at least 50 points on state tests over the past five years, for instance, are excluded.

— EMILY ALPERT

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