I had one big question for the U.S. Department of Education: Why should focusing on struggling students cost a Logan Heights school?

Last week I reported that federal money to turn around Burbank Elementary could be in jeopardy because the Logan Heights school offered extra tutoring to struggling students after school. The feds say schools were supposed to add more school time for all children, not just some of them. California warned schools like Burbank to change or lose the money.

But when I wrote my story last week, nobody could really explain to me why it was so important for schools to extend learning time for all children, instead of focusing in on the kids who needed help the most. It seemed bizarre that offering more help to the weakest students would be a problem. So I rang up the U.S. Department of Education to ask why the rule was there. Here’s what they said in an email:

We can’t comment on the situation at a specific school without more information, but in general, for a turnaround to be successful it must reach all students and not all students are inclined to sign up for afterschool programs.

The feds say that before- or after-school programs can be used to extend the school day, but “must be available to all students in the school.” Now the question is how Burbank will adapt to meet the rules.

The most obvious way to make more time for all students is to extend the school day, but that would require them to renegotiate work hours with the teachers union, which Burbank has shied from doing. I’ll keep updating the blog on Burbank and its quest to improve as those questions get answered.

Emily Alpert is the education reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. What should she write about next? Please contact her directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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