LEAs in PI granted SES permission by state board

Sixteen local educational agencies that are also subject to federal Program Improvement have won the right to serve as their own supplemental tutoring service.

Under a waiver expected to be approved soon by the U.S. Department of Education, the California State Board of Education has given conditional approval to the districts.

As part of the No Child Left Behind Act, schools that have been placed into Program Improvement for two or more years are required to provide Supplemental Educational Services - tutoring services that must be provided free to low-income students.

Federal law allows the services to be provided by a variety of entities including private companies, non-profits or school districts.

Regulations imposed during the Bush administration prohibited districts that were in Program Improvement from also serving as SES providers.

As one of his first acts in office, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan reversed the policy and offered states the ability to get a federal waiver allowing LEAs in Program Improvement to also act as SES providers.

Districts still needed the request to be ratified by the state board but last year, members representing former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to go along.

Earlier this year, with Gov. Jerry Brown now in office, a new majority on the state board moved in May to allow the practice.

At issue are concerns that districts that were already considered failing could not also be a source of the required, supplemental academic program.

But supporters have argued that many districts have a reservoir of highly-effective teachers that can help raise overall instruction standards while the additional federal support would also help to drive up district expertise.

At the state board meeting earlier this month, 16 districts were given permission to serve as SES providers even while also enrolled in Program Improvement. The districts are:

Antioch Unified; Baldwin Park Unified; Capistrano Unified; Dixon Unified; Fresno Unified; Garden Grove Unified; Hanford Elementary; Lodi Unified; Red Bluff Union Elementary; Roseland Elementary; San Bernardino City Unified; San Juan Unified; Santa Ana Unified; Shasta County Office of Education; Today's Fresh Charter School; and Twin Rivers Unified.

As a condition for receiving permission to act as SES providers, districts were required to meet standards of adequacy as defined by the state board.

The approval granted by the state board is subject to the federal waiver being approved by the U.S. Department of Education - but that action is expected.

Technically, the state board is seeking two waivers:

One that would allow all interested local educational agencies identified for improvement or corrective action to serve as SES providers," according to a report to the board this month.

And two: that would allow "an LEA the flexibility to offer SES to eligible students in Title I schools in year one of Program Improvement and to count the costs of providing SES to those students toward meeting the LEA's 20 percent obligation."

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