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California schools at risk of losing funds from School Improvement Grant

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Failing grade: A federal report says not all schools are properly using the funds granted to them to improve. (AP file photo)
Failing grade: A federal report says not all schools are properly using the funds granted to them to improve. (AP file photo)

California is not properly monitoring millions of dollars in education funds to help the state’s lowest-performing schools improve, and as a result districts are in jeopardy of losing money.

San Francisco, along with 41 districts statewide, qualified in 2010 for the federal School Improvement Grant to help schools fund their choice of four “turnaround” models to improve student performance.

But according to a July report by the U.S. Department of Education, not all schools are implementing the models properly as a result of the state failing to properly monitor the implementation.

Districts were audited at random to give the federal government a snapshot of how well the state is monitoring the grant’s implementation. And California is not doing so well.

Officials with the San Francisco Unified School District — which was awarded $52 million for 10 schools — acknowledged their lack of compliance, but said they are not alone.

“All schools and districts are out of compliance with the clarifications at the federal and state level about the [Student Improvement Grant] requirement for ‘increased learning time,’” district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said.

The federal investigation is ongoing, and officials would not say if they have received any information from California on how districts will comply with requirements. Federal officials also said any decision to withhold money would be made at the state level.

San Francisco received $15.6 million for the 2010-11 school year and is poised to receive another $18 million for the 2011-12 school year. The remaining $18 million would be awarded in the 2012-13 school year.

In The City, some of the unmet requirements include the district replacing the principal and at least 50 percent of the teachers at Everett Middle School, the only site federal auditors visited. Programs the money should be used for were not properly explained.

Blythe said the staff at Everett has been replaced since federal officials visited in March. Although district officials said Everett’s new principal was hired to start the type of reforms federal officials envisioned, his hiring did not meet program requirements because he was hired two years before the money was received.

“It is a program widely available and successful in other parts of the city but has not been previously available to Everett students,” Blythe said. “SFUSD is eager to converse with the federal monitors again, as we feel the overall context in which that program operates was perhaps unclear to them.”


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