Schools Get Stimulus Funds

Northgate will receive an estimated $887,953, and Avonworth will receive approximately $683,845. In a letter, sent by Secretary of Education Gerald Zahorchak to the superintendents of the state’s school districts, Zahorchak referenced a quote by President Obama on how the stimulus money will stimulate economic growth. According to the letter, this investment will create jobs building modernized classrooms and libraries, provide funds to train math and science teachers, and give aid to states and school districts so they will not have to lay off teachers and cut education programs.

The funds do come with spending restraints though, as most of the money must go for new or expanded programs rather than pay for programs that already exist. According to Northgate School District superintendent Dr. Reggie Bonfield, the PDE has put only general guidelines in place, and there is no specific listing of how the money needs to be spent as of yet.

According to PDE spokesman Michael Race, the stimulus money is divvied up among the districts based on a school funding formula that is set by state law. The formula takes into consideration different factors, including the poverty level. The state looks at the amount of local revenue that the district has and districts that have a lower amount of local revenue receive a higher amount of state dollars, an attempt to "even out" the districts, Race said.

According to Bonfield, the state usually pays for about 50 percent of school programs, but that number has fallen to about 30 percent over the last 10-15 years, with the districts picking up the tab. Bonfield said that he had hoped to spend the stimulus money to cut the district's current costs, but that it looks like most of the money has ties to it.

Of the $887,953 Northgate will receive, approximately $208,300 is slated for Title I, a reading program whose funding is based on the percentage of students in the district who come from low-income families.

Northgate also will receive $312,100 for special education to provide programs and services to students with disabilities. Another $184,153 will go to basic education, which according to Bonfield is not all stimulus money, but just an addition of about $8,000 to what the district has gotten in previous years. $176,000 will come in the form of a state stabilization grant that can be used in a variety of ways, according to Bonfield. According to the letter from Zahorchak, the grant money can be used for modernization, renovation and repair of facilities, basic education, special education, career and technical education, and adult and family literacy.

Avonworth will receive $208,900 for Title I programs, and $244,600 for special education. The district also will get a $176,500 state stabilization grant, and $46,945 for basic education. Both school districts will receive $6,900 that is designated for technology upgrades through PDE's Title II Part D. The goal of Title II Part D is to integrate technology into the school curriculum and provide related professional development, according to the PDE.

Avonworth School District superintendent Dr. Valerie McDonald said administrators are still cautious about the stimulus money. "The reason we are cautious is that we don't know exactly what the impact of the money is going to be," McDonald said. McDonald said that she is concerned with how the programs that will be started with the stimulus money will be funded after that money runs out. She said that Avonworth would have to look into how much of the cost of the programs could be absorbed by Avonworth's general fund.

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