The State Board of Education on Wednesday unanimously approved new "Parent Trigger" rules and a second year of School Improvement Grants, both aimed at reforming failing campuses.

The board also unanimously agreed to withhold up to $69 million in new grant funding for additional low-performing schools because none of the 25 applications received by the state Department of Education merited awards, according to a staff report.

Trustees were concerned about a "searing" report from the U.S. Department of Education that found the state failed to ensure districts that received grants last year spent their money appropriately and implemented the reforms they promised.

"I think there has to be some other aggressive monitoring," said Trustee Patricia Rucker, "to assure some additional oversight of how they do the implementation."

Most of the 41 districts that received funding last year -- including five in the East Bay -- must create "corrective plans" to ensure they will make required changes by the first day of the 2011-12 school year. When some speakers suggested it might take longer to make staffing changes and negotiate reforms with unions, Trustee James Aschwanden showed little sympathy.

"I would point out that to do less would not qualify you for the grant under the federal guidelines," he said. "This is not an option. This is not a buffet line."

The Mt. Diablo district in Contra Costa County has not yet negotiated additional instructional hours with its teacher union and has built five fewer days of instruction into its budget for each of the next two years. The San Lorenzo, Hayward, Oakland and West Contra Costa districts expect to make minor adjustments to their plans to receive funding.

Mt. Diablo, Oakland and West Contra Costa also applied for new grants and will likely reapply, after finding out why they were rejected.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

ONLINE:
Information about the State Board of Education meeting is available by calling 916-319-0827 or by visiting www.cde.ca.gov/be. Click on "Meeting Agendas" and select July 13-14, items 1-4
For details, read the On Assignment blog at www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.