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Struggling Schools To Get Smaller Classes, More Control

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Aired 8/10/09

San Diego schools with the largest numbers of disadvantaged students will benefit from an extra $32 million in federal economic stimulus money over the next two years.

— San Diego schools with the largest numbers of disadvantaged students will benefit from an extra $32 million in federal economic stimulus money over the next two years.

Those stimulus dollars come in the form of Title I funds. Title I funds are federal dollars set aside every year for programs that benefit disadvantaged students.

District officials say more than $13 million of the additional $32 million will be spent this year on smaller classes in about two dozen under-performing schools in San Diego with the largest numbers of low income students.

Currently, most San Diego teachers will have about 24 students or more in a classroom. But teachers in the selected schools will have about 16 kids.

Some critics question whether the reform is the most innovative use of the federal aid.

San Diego school trustee John Evans says it is innovative because it keeps teachers in the most challenging schools.

“This, to me, has always been a really big issue because the poorest schools have just been turnstiles for teachers to pass through and move onto other schools. And now we'll have a core of teachers who will become more dedicated,” Evans said.

And supporters believe that dedication will translate into higher student test scores. Even so, district officials warn that some of the campuses that stand to benefit don't have to room to accommodate more classes. Evans say those schools will have the flexibility to use the money in other ways.

In addition to smaller classes, roughly $700,000 of the additional Title 1 funds this year will go towards training community members who sit on school site councils.

“All the Title 1 decisions, and a lot of the decisions made by those schools, are made by school site councils,” Evans said. “Its really to train the individuals at the school to determine how to best use the funds as they come up on a regular basis to their schools.

Evans says its part of a district-wide push to give Title 1 schools greater control. It’s also a way to ensure the school site councils are spending money on reforms that are backed by research and results. Evans says in exchange for greater control and training, the school groups will have to be more accountable to district officials regarding their financial and academic decisions.

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