ALAMEDA -- Alameda school leaders are calling on the Newark Unified School District to reconsider its decision to hold onto to state funds earmarked for a program that helps new teachers that traditionally are distributed to Alameda and other East Bay districts.

Alameda trustees unanimously decided April 8 to challenge Newark's decision, including possibly lobbying Sacramento lawmakers about the issue.

Known as the Beginning Teacher and Assessment Induction, or BTSA, the state-funded program helps beginning teachers, including through one-on-one collaboration and with long term planning of curriculum and instruction.

As the fiscal agent for the East Bay BTSA Induction Consortium, which includes the Alameda, Berkeley, San Leandro and San Lorenzo school districts, Newark officials distribute funds that go toward the program. But Newark officials put the districts on notice earlier this year that it will retain all of the funds beginning next year.

"The lack of BTSA funding will either decimate our BTSA programs, or at best, force us to pull funds from other educational programs to make up what will be hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue," Alameda Superintendent Kirsten Vital, school board President Margie Sherratt and Audrey Hyman, president of the Alameda Education Association, said in an April 14 letter to Newark officials.

They said the move is "unethical and a grievous disservice to both new teachers and students" and that other districts that serve as a conduit for the program's state funds, such as the Pleasanton Unified School District, still distribute it.

The loss is expected to be about $200,000 annually for the Alameda district.

The letter from the Alameda officials follows another letter on Feb. 21 from Robert Clark, the district's chief business officer, that was also signed by the Berkeley, San Leandro and San Lorenzo superintendents, also voicing their concern about the Newark decision.

Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.

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