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San Diego Schools Get Boost In Federal Funds For Disadvantaged Kids

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in...

Photo by Milan Kovacevic

Above: The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in this photo, Sept. 15, 2017.

Next year, San Diego Unified schools will get tens of thousands of dollars in extra federal funding to help disadvantaged students. District trustees have approved a plan for the central office to relinquish control over more than $8.2 million it traditionally spends on things like district-wide professional development.

Now principals and parents will decide how to spend the money.

“We’re bringing forward this plan to put more funding out into our schools, placing trust in our schools to make the decisions that are best for the individual students that they serve,” Superintendent Cindy Marten said at Tuesday’s board meeting.

The district has always divvied up some $15.5 million in Title I funding across its schools. The $8.2 million would be on top of that, with schools getting anywhere from $4,000 to $275,000 more, depending on student demographics.

Suzy Reid is chair of the District Advisory Committee, or DAC, which has recommended this approach for the past few years. She said she’s appreciative of the move, but cautioned the district that it needs to improve parent engagement for meaningful local control.

“That’s what the DAC and (school site councils) have been saying for a long time. We want more money at the school site and more local control,” Reid said. “But with that comes the need for some skilled SSC people.”

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SSCs are made up of parents, community members and school staff who meet monthly to provide oversight of schools’ academic and budget planning. SSC members then represent their schools on the larger DAC.

Reid said, last year, 86 schools did not send representatives to DAC. She said many parents felt ill-equipped to participate.

The district is exploring providing transportation for parents who lack resources to get involved, as well as allowing parents to participate in meetings online.

The change in Title I allocations comes after years of belt-tightening in San Diego schools. In December, the district estimated needing to cut another $37 million next year and $38 million the following year. However, those numbers could change as early as Thursday. Newly-elected Governor Gavin Newsom has signaled strong interest in increasing education spending.

The San Diego Unified School Board has voted to give principals and parents more control over federal dollars traditionally spent by the central office.

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