A long line of alphabetcally organized tables doled out the schedules for students on the first day of school at John Burroughs High School in Burbank on Monday, August 13, 2012.

A long line of alphabetcally organized tables doled out the schedules for students on the first day of school at John Burroughs High School in Burbank on Monday, August 13, 2012. (Tim Berger/Staff photographer / September 25, 2012)

Burbank Unified has officially bowed out of the federal Race to the Top — a competitive grant program that could bring millions to cash-starved school districts, but not without some strings.

After considering a run for a piece of the $389-million grant, Burbank officials say they do not want to rush into the application for two reasons: the district falls short of the requirements and the grant requires teacher evaluations that are tied to test scores.

“That’s something we don’t rush into,” said Sharon Cuseo, director of instruction and accountability.

Glendale Unified is in the process of applying for the grant, which could mean $30- to $40-million for the district over the course of four years.

Cuseo said that Burbank Unified is short of meeting requirements related to the district’s data system and prior success in Adequate Yearly Progress reports based on standardized testing and high school exit exam scores.

“Even though we have achieved steady growth over time, we have been flirting in and out with program improvement,” Cuseo said.

This year, about 36% of Burbank students were on free or reduced lunches, Cuseo said, but the Race to the Top grant requires a minimum of 40%.

As of last week, Cuseo said 892 school districts had applied for the grant, but the money would be split among just 15 to 25 of them.

This year marks the first time the U.S. Department of Education has opened the application process to individual districts. Previously, the race was open only to individual states.

Burbank school board President Larry Applebaum said that it would be nearly impossible for the district to sustain the grant-funded programs anyway, once the money is gone after four years.

“For the budgetary curve in Burbank being what it is, there’s no way we could make that commitment,” he said.

-- Kelly Corrigan, Times Community News

Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan