In the News
by Megan Wood
Congressman Scott Peters asked the state schools superintendent this week to consider giving funding to the San Diego Unified School District for homeless students even though its grant application was missing a signature.
California school districts are eligible to apply for up to $250,000 in federal funding annually to help homeless students succeed. Whether districts get the money depends on how well their grant writers do in explaining the need for the funding.
The San Diego Democrat sent the letter to the superintendent four days after inewsource revealed that the district was disqualified for a grant that could have provided $250,000 annually for San Diego Unified homeless students over a three-year period. State education officials said the application was disqualified because of a missing signature from a finance official.
“I sent this letter to the State Superintendent because I want to stand up for homeless youth in our communities,” Peters said in an email to inewsource. “These students are especially vulnerable and I am deeply concerned about how their education might suffer without this funding.”
In his letter, Peters requested Superintendent Tom Torlakson reevaluate how the state Department of Education reviews grant applications and notifies districts of problems with them.
He specifically asked the department whether it contacts districts “with otherwise-promising applications” if they are incomplete. He also said he wanted to know if a missing signature disqualifies applicants for any other grants.
Peters said the district “acknowledges they made an honest mistake, but flat out denial of (a) much-needed grant on this basis is a drastic penalty.” He also asked if the district could apply for homeless student funding over the next three years if some awards go unused.
Jennifer Coronel, who oversees San Diego Unified’s homeless student programs, accepted the blame for not obtaining the signature on the 43-page application. She said new protocols are in place now to ensure grant applications don’t go unsigned.
She also said the district has restructured her office to ensure its homeless students get the assistance they need. The district had the third most homeless students in the state last year, behind Los Angeles Unified and Long Beach.
State education officials did not respond to requests from inewsource on whether Peters’ plea to help San Diego Unified might succeed.