Key Policy Letters from the Education Secretary or Deputy Secretary
December 3, 2009
Archived Information

December 3, 2009

Dear Chief State School Officers:

I am pleased to inform you that, today, the Department posted on the final requirements and the State application package for School Improvement Grants (SIG) authorized under section 1003(g) of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).  These final requirements govern the process that a State educational agency (SEA) must use to award SIG funds to local educational agencies (LEAs) that demonstrate the greatest need for the funds and the strongest commitment to use the funds to raise substantially the achievement of students attending Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, and restructuring, as well as certain secondary schools that are eligible for, but do not receive, Title I funds.  Specifically, the final requirements will direct section 1003(g) SIG funds in significant amounts to each State’s persistently lowest-achieving schools in order to turn around those schools.

Along with the final requirements, the Department is releasing five percent of each State’s allocation of fiscal year (FY) 2009 SIG funds.  As you know, more than $3.5 billion in FY 2009 SIG funds is available:  $545.6 million that was appropriated in the Department of Education Appropriations Act, 2009; and $3 billion that was appropriated in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).  An SEA is authorized to reserve, under section 1003(g)(8) of the ESEA, not more than five percent of its total SIG allocation for SIG-related administration, evaluation, and technical assistance expenses.  We are awarding these State-level SIG funds now, prior to the approval of your State’s application for SIG funds so that you may immediately begin support of State and local efforts to implement the final requirements by the beginning of the 2010–11 school year.  Your State is receiving two grant awards:  one for SIG funds from the regular 2009 appropriation (CFDA # 84.377A) and one for SIG funds from the ARRA (CFDA # 84.388A).

Although we are awarding each State the maximum amount of State-level SIG funds (in lieu of an SEA’s reservation), your State is not required to reserve the full amount.  If you choose to retain less than five percent for State-level activities, you should add the excess funds to the SIG funds you will soon receive for allocation to eligible LEAs.  As your grant awards indicate, you may use your State-level SIG funds for allowable pre-award costs that you have incurred since the beginning of the respective Federal funding periods:  February 17, 2009 for SIG ARRA funds and July 1, 2009 for regular SIG funds.  The State-level SIG funds are available for use throughout the period of availability of SIG funds, which may be extended through September 30, 2013, if your State applies for and receives a waiver of the period of availability.  The grant awards reflect the maximum amount of FY 2009 SIG funds an SEA may reserve for the entire period of availability.

Your State may use these funds to prepare its SIG application (which will include a request for any applicable waivers and a description of its LEA application process) and to provide technical assistance to eligible LEAs.  For example, your State may wish to provide guidance and tools that LEAs can use to carry out needs assessments, screen partner organizations, and review school staff, or may support networks of district leaders charged with planning and leading turnaround efforts. 

You may also wish to launch or expand efforts to recruit or develop principals and other staff to serve in your State’s persistently lowest-achieving schools and to identify, screen, and attract Education Management Organizations and Charter Management Organizations willing to work with LEAs to implement the “restart” model in those schools.  In addition, your State may allocate some of the funds to LEAs with Tier I and Tier II schools to support planning for implementation of selected school intervention models if and when they receive a grant under the SIG program.  An LEA might, for example, use the funds to review student achievement data; evaluate current policies and practices that support or impede reform; assess the strengths and weaknesses of school leaders, teachers, and staff; recruit and train effective principals capable of implementing one of the school intervention models; or identify and screen outside partners.

The early release of State-level FY 2009 SIG funds is the second of two steps the Department has taken to support State efforts to administer FY 2009 Title I funds, including Title I ARRA funds.  On October 27, 2009, the Department published in the Federal Register a notice of final adjustments that permits each SEA to reserve an additional percentage of Title I, Part A funds (0.3 or 0.5 percent of its Title I, Part A ARRA allocation, depending on whether the SEA requests waivers of certain requirements) to help defray the costs associated with data collection and reporting requirements under the ARRA.  This increase in State administrative funds may be used to support data collection activities associated with ARRA funds, including those required by the ARRA SIG program.

It has been almost ten months since the enactment of the historic ARRA, which has made available to States and LEAs unprecedented funding to support and improve our Nation’s schools.  I recognize that during this time you and your staff have been working hard to get these funds to LEAs and schools and to provide guidance to help LEAs think in new ways about using the funds to stabilize local school budgets and support significant improvements in teaching and learning that will result in better academic outcomes for students.  I appreciate all of the hard work you have been doing to date and look forward to continuing to work together to ensure that section 1003(g) SIG funds are used to their maximum potential to turn around our Nation’s persistently lowest-achieving schools.

  Arne Duncan

Last Modified: 03/02/2017