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Could $416 million push schools to reform?

Flickr photo by Rob Shenk

After months of budget cuts, layoffs and an embarrassing poor showing in the Obama administration's reform contest, California finally got a nearly $416 million break.

Last week, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced California was awarded $415,844,376 from the U.S. Department of Education to help fund education reform. The money, which comes through the federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) program, is set aside for 188 schools that were designated by the state as "persistently low-achieving."

I am very grateful to President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan for making this critical funding available for California’s persistently lowest-achieving schools,' said O’Connell in an e-mailed statement. This grant will help fund efforts to turn around persistently struggling schools in order to prepare their students for success in college and careers.

But there are two potential catches: 1.) Any school that accepts the money must agree to implement one of four very serious reform plans; and 2.) schools have until Friday to apply for the funds.

Of the 188 schools on the state list, only 17 have agreed to try the reforms. The program is voluntary. So, if a school district decides to turn down the grant money, the state can't make it adhere to the reforms, which involve either:

  • Firing the principal and at least half of the staff

  • Closing and re-opening as a charter school

  • Permanently shutting down

  • Replacing the principal and adopting a longer day

Escondido Unified has already announced that it is firing the principal and most of the staff of one of its elementary schools to qualify for the funds. The school joins Santa Ana and San Bernardino Unified as the only districts to agree to the drastic measures.

Prior to last week's announcement, large districts like Oakland Unified and San Diego said they would pass up on the state's program. But if they reconsider, and get an application into Sacramento this week, they could qualify for up to $2 million in funds for the next three years. With mass layoffs being announced for next year, will the cash be too tempting to pass up?          

Filed under: K–12, Daily Report


Comments are closed for this story.
Caroline Grannan's picture
I think your coverage here needs to be more clear that there is a widespread view that the strings attached to this money are destructive to schools, children and communities -- that a "destroy schools in order to save them" policy is not the way to improve education. In fact, the view that schools need support, not attacks, tends to be held by those best informed about and most involved in education and K-12 public schools. It's largely those to whom it's all theoretical -- those with no actual contact with real-life classrooms and kids -- tend to hold the "off with their heads" viewpoint. The ignorant and lofty tend to think it's oh-so-easy and that punishing, firing and closing down schools is the silver bullet. At least all coverage that promotes that scorched-earth viewpoint needs to prominently indicate that it's only one side and to reflect the opposite view as well.
LockDeltz's picture
The statistics speak itself about public education. The flaws in public education are all too obvious. According to the heritage foundation the cost per student was in between $12,000-$20,000 depending on the state. That's 200k per class. Do you want to know how much the total expenditures were? Over $500 billion dollars! You wonder why unemployment is so high, look at what their being taught at school; 12 years of English, 12 years of math, and after they graduate some of them can't even write a basic sentence. No real preparation for the work-force or college, it's a failure in every sense of the word. You would be an ignorant fool if you think education should stay the way it is. If you think education is fine the way it is, you might as well abolish public schools, at least it would save tax-payers time and money.

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