WASHINGTON (AP) -- Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday announced a $15 million AmeriCorps program to help some of the nation's worst performing schools increase their graduation rates.
Duncan said the three-year program, called the School Turnaround AmeriCorps, would send 650 members into about 60 schools that are not graduating enough of their students. Schools will compete for the grants, which are funded through the Education Department and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
"Turning around our nation's lowest-performing schools is challenging work that requires everyone to play a part -- from teachers, administrators and counselors to business leaders, the philanthropic sector and community members," Duncan said in a statement.
Duncan's announcement comes as lawmakers and the administration are looking for a way to dodge some $85 billion in automatic spending cuts set to take hold at the end of the week. The new AmeriCorps program is a pittance by comparison to that, or the $4.5 billion the Education Department has sent to 1,300 of the nation's lowest performing schools in search of a turnabout.
Duncan said the new program's goal will be to improve school safety, attendance and discipline in districts where large percentages of students don't complete their education. The AmeriCorps members also will work to help students' reading and mathematics skills and increase college enrollment rates by helping them and their parents apply for financial aid.