Feds approve California’s SIG application for $69 million

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced Thursday that California would receive $69 million this year as its share of the School Improvement Grant program - money aimed at restructuring the state's lowest performing schools.

Districts wishing to apply for the 2011 award have until June 3 to submit their paperwork to the California Department of Education.

Duncan's office has been releasing award notices for the SIG money all week, pointing out that the funds are part of $546 million that Congress has made available to states during the current federal fiscal year.

Last year, states received a total of $3.5 billion in SIG funding.

When a school continues to perform in the bottom five percent of the state and isn't showing signs of progress or has graduation rates below 60 percent over a number of years, something dramatic needs to be done," said Duncan said in a statement.

"Turning around our worst performing schools is difficult for everyone but it is critical that we show the courage to do the right thing by kids," he said.

The California award, slightly higher than anticipated will go to those schools defined under state and federal rules as "persistently lowest achieving." The funds are conditioned on the agreement that districts agree to undertake one of one of four aggressive turnaround models for the target schools that include replacing most of the staff or reopening as a charter.

The California State Board of Education has already determined that this year's allotment of SIG money will be divided among the 96 schools that qualified for funding last year but were not awarded money.

An approved application will provide each district with at least $50,000 per year of eligibility and a maximum of $2 million.

Officials at the California Department of Education have said that SIG funds will be available for obligation by the CDE and LEAs from July 1, 2011, through September 30, 2013. CDE officials also said that the state has requested a federal waiver of the funding term to permit the state and its participating LEAs to obligate the funds through September 30, 2014.

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