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Government gives California $416M to Reform Schools

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California school reform

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the state of California $416 million dollars to turn around dozens of its under-performing public schools.

This grant award is available for 5% of the state’s public schools who have consistently failed to meet a variety of academic benchmarks.

The money is being awarded by U.S. Department of Education’s School Improvement Grants program which hopes to raise academic levels in these 188 schools to appropriate levels.

California school districts can apply for these grants of $50,000 to $2 million for their suffering schools, but must agree to one of four outlined measures in order to be approved.

To get the grants, districts will have to take drastic measures to reform the struggling schools, such as converting to a charter school, replacing the principal, increasing instructional time, firing half the staff or closing entirely and sending students to higher-achieving schools.

Charter schools have proved to be very successful in teaching low-income students and consistently outperform their public counterparts, despite being in some of California’s toughest areas.

Of the 12 top-performing charter schools, five are in Oakland, three in Los Angeles County, two in Santa Clara County, and one each in San Bernardino and San Diego counties.

Charter schools are funded at about 85 percent of the level of traditional public schools and are accountable to parents not unions, and as such are freer to choose teachers and have stricter practices without all the red tape.

Unfortunately this is a voluntary grant program and schools that do not want to make any of these reforms will not be forced.

In fact, because of the drastic measures only 17 schools of the 188 have agreed to go ahead and commit to the reform and take the money.

School boards agreeing to these reforms include Escondido Unified, Santa Ana and San Bernardino Unified to name a few.

Districts that have said ‘thanks, but no thanks’ include Oakland Unified and San Diego. Although they still have a bit more time to change their minds.

In other efforts to improve their schools California is also participating in the Obama $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition.

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