Area Schools To Receive Stimulus $$
On the heels of Gov. Ed Rendell's announcement to increase education spending in the commonwealth by $300 million, Fulton County schools are tentatively slated to receive an additional $741,000 in federal stimulus money through the recently signed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Penned into law by President Barack Obama in mid-February, the Act will result in a $2.7 billion allotment for Pennsylvania school districts that is further broken down into $1.6 billion from the state fiscal stabilization fund in support of elementary, secondary and postsecondary education, $399 million for Title 1 and an additional $456 million for special education.
The House Committee on Education and Labor shows locally an estimated $172,000 will be available to the Forbes Road School District; $309,000 for Central Fulton; and $260,000 for the Southern Fulton School District. With so many requirements needing to be met for the money to be spent, it is not yet known by local school administrators how the funding will actually be used.
In an overview of the federal Act shared with area administrators by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), schools are asked to consider a variety of options in deciding how to effectively and quickly use the stimulus resources. Those questions include is the investment going to make a significant impact in student achievement; will the money align with strategies already implemented; and can the investment be used in the given time frame.
PDE officials note they are "committed to streamlining the process for getting funding out to school districts, responding to requests for information and technical assistance and providing approvals to school districts as needed. Bureaucracy will not stand in the way of deploying these vital stimulus funds."
Even though much of the plan that will result in funding filtered to a local level has left many school officials with questions, a general outline has been prepared detailing how the $1.6 billion for three levels of education will be distributed. An approximate $1.15 billion will serve as a continuation for the state's school funding formula broken down into $418 million increase for the 2009-10 fiscal year and an additional $635 million during the following fiscal year.
In addition, $317 million will be distributed during the 2009- 10 fiscal year through one-timeonly grants aimed at the modernization or renovation of facilities, basic education, activities authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), career and technical education and adult and family literacy. An additional $44 million will be utilized in both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 fiscal years to restore higher education funding.
In its guidelines for utilizing the funding, PDE further advised school districts to use the forum of school board meetings to convey to the public how they intend to invest their stimulus resources. Input from the community is also suggested prior to plans being finalized.
PDE also mandates that data should be compiled to measure the impact of the investments on both students and taxpayers. Suggested performance measures include number of students served, academic improvement, layoffs avoided, class size impact and property tax increases avoided.