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Here’s hoping that everyone had a reflective Martin Luther King Jr. Day — and survived the strange incident of water falling from the sky. Your newsblitz today is loaded with articles and opinions on a little thing that Obama calls Race to the Top:

  • We profile an unusual man with an unusual job: Phil Stover, who is at the helm as San Diego Unified tries out a new way of budgeting. As a longtime consultant, he’s credited with sparing millions from its operational departments, but his new role as interim chief special projects officer has raised questions for critics who wonder whether he’s qualified. He’s also just a really interesting character, a consultant who’s lived in a Mission Valley hotel room for the last three years as his role here as steadily expanded.
  • And in case you missed it this weekend, we chatted with Pam Hosmer, who oversees programs for runaways, hospitalized students and other kids with rare needs in San Diego Unified, about the unique challenges for homeless students.
  • The Union-Tribune reports that talk of school closures is in the air in Del Mar and in Lemon Grove.
  • Closure is also a possibility for an award-winning educational center that teaches kids about renewable energy, the UT writes.
  • City News Service reports on how a school science project prompted the evacuation of Millennial Tech Middle School when school officials fretted that it might be an explosive device. The blogosphere ate this one up.
  • KPBS dissects why some school districts — and not just San Diego Unified — aren’t jumping at Race to the Top, a competition for more federal stimulus money for schools. San Diego News Network says only in every three San Diego County districts are going for the funds. Education Week has a wonkier take on the national trend. Oh, and a little paper called The New York Times writes about this phenomenon, too.
  • That’s not all on Race to the Top: The UT editorializes that school districts that sit out the race are just making excuses to avoid reforms that the teachers union doesn’t like. Eduwonk thinks sitting out the race could be something of a stunt.
  • The California Progress Report writes that the state’s Race to the Top application is “riddled with holes, misrepresentations and improbabilities.”
  • And the San Francisco Chronicle has a slew of reporting and opinion on California’s bid for Race to the Top. State Sen. Gloria Romero argues that the race is empowering parents. An education professor says, “Reagan must be grinning in his grave” — and he doesn’t mean it as a compliment. And the Oakland teachers union isn’t happy either.
  • Schwarzenegger’s budget would put campus repairs under the knife, the Sacramento Bee writes. Educators argue that the governor has stripped school boards of autonomy by specifying what to cut.
  • Also in the San Francisco Chronicle: Pay is slowing down for university presidents.
  • In the Los Angeles Times, a Manhattan Institute fellow argues that states are setting the bar too low with their standardized tests.
  • Breaking news on federal money for schools! (I don’t get to write that phrase much.) President Obama will seek to expand Race to the Top by $1.35 billion next year and let school districts compete, too. The Washington Post gives a good rundown; Education Week writes that this could pave the way for the Race to become a permanent part of federal education policy.
  • The Chicago Sun-Times writes about the expected shakeups and closures of several faltering schools in the Windy City. Why should you care? School turnarounds are one part of Obama’s education policy, which could mean that news like this will someday spread to California.
  • And Slate has a fascinating review of a book on what’s wrong with academia.

— EMILY ALPERT

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