Professional Educators

A Very Late Spring for School Improvement Grants

Summer is here, no doubt about it.  Dog days.  Triple digit temps. Sports talk radio advises limiting adult beverage intake at the Washington Nationals home game tonight because there’s a heat advisory until 11 p.m.  Meanwhile in the world of School Improvement Grants, spring seems eternal.

As of today, 39  states have received ED approval of SIG applications. Two came today via ED press releases and a record four were named Friday July 2; all in identical press releases. The ED boilerplate includes this sentence from the hopeful days many months ago –  “School districts will apply to the state for the funds this spring.”

Okay, maybe when the same sentence appeared in five identical releases in June, it was just  a matter of federalese and perhaps a little laziness. But here in the post equinox, when even the pool water is hot, it doesn’t matter what corridor of ED cranks out the reference to “spring” work ahead for educators in the second week of July. The releases make the Secretary’s office look disengaged, especially with school starting in less than a month in some states.

In late June, Lesli Maxwell in EdWeek noted the “holdup” in grant approvals and contrasted it with the urgency voiced by Secretary Duncan and the situation for the schools  – “…changes for many schools need to have started already, especially in cases where principals and teachers must be replaced.”

Meanwhile, new guidance pops out of ED occasionally in the form of FAQs – find the latest here.  A sample Q-A is below. Happy pre-Back to School.

A-32a. May an LEA use SIG funds to pay for the portion of a teacher’s salary that is attributable to providing increased learning time beyond the regular school day, week, or year?

Yes. Both the turnaround model and the transformation model require an LEA to provide increased learning time, which is generally defined as “using a longer school day, week, or year schedule to significantly increase the total number of school hours to include additional time for” instruction in core academic subjects; instruction in other subjects and enrichment activities; and teachers to collaborate, plan, and engage in professional development. See sections I.A.2(a)(1)(viii), I.A.2(d)(3)(i), I.A.3 of the final requirements. Because a school must operate a schoolwide program in order to implement either of these models, the LEA must provide the school all of the non-Federal funds it would otherwise receive in the absence of the SIG funds. ESEA section 1114(a)(2)(B). These non-Federal funds include the funds necessary and sufficient to provide the school’s regular instructional program—i.e., the program the school provides during the regular school day, week, or year. If this requirement is met, the LEA may use SIG funds in the school to support the extra costs of providing increased learning time beyond the regular school day, week, or year. See A-32b. For example, the LEA may use SIG funds to pay the pro-rata share of a teacher’s salary that is attributable to a longer school day, week, or year and is necessary to implement a turnaround or transformation model, even if the teacher is providing instruction in core academic subjects during the increased learning time.

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