Some schools feel shut out of grant money

August 3, 2010 9:23:31 PM PDT
The California Board of Education will hand out over $400 million in school improvement grant money to school districts before Labor Day. It sounds like a windfall, but some struggling East Bay school districts may not see a dime.

Oakland Unified School District spokesperson Troy Flint says the embattled district was counting on $9 million in federal school improvement money for its two worst performing schools. Neither will close, but now the district will not be able to implement several needed improvements before the start of the school year.

"This money would have been used to fund specific reforms such as adding professional development, perhaps a larger extended school day, renewed curriculum," Flint said.

Across the bay, a different story: the San Francisco Unified School District applied for funding for 10 of its underachieving schools. All were approved and given $47 million for the upcoming fiscal year.

"In general, following the models very closely that were prescribed by the federal government and the state, the turnaround model, which requires replacing the principal, the transformation model which required replacing the principal and staff and even going so far as to say that we would close one school," district spokesperson Rachel Norton said.

The school improvement grant program was designed to add funds to districts considered by the state as low achieving. School districts that were shut out say the criteria for the grant application process was unfair to those looking to improve only a few schools.

West Contra Costa Unified School District could have used the funds. Lincoln Elementary applied for $3 million but was rejected and now might have to close.

"We are devastated; we were really relying on that money, we had done what the state had asked, we had transformed that staff, half the teachers that we had last year, they are no longer there to be able to create the reform that was required," West Contra Costa School Board spokesperson Charles Ramsey said.

Because of numerous complaints, the state will review the application process to possibly include more districts.


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