Pa. Education Department divvying up stimulus aid

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The state Department of Education has released estimates of how $2.6 billion in new federal dollars will be distributed for early childhood, K-12 and higher education.

The funds, part of the federal economic stimulus package, will be available after the state budget is passed, said state Education Department spokesman Michael Race. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

The state has yet to receive word on the total amount of federal education funds headed its way, but the funding increases released yesterday cover five categories:

• Basic education subsidy increase of $418 million in 2009-10 and an additional $317 million for 2009-10, using the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

• Title 1 grants of $383 million through Sept. 30, 2011. Title 1 is aimed at improving reading and math instruction in high-poverty schools.

• Grants of $317 million for modernization, renovation and repair of facilities; basic education; special education; career and technical education; and adult and family literacy, through Sept. 30, 2011.

• Special education increases of $384 million through Sept. 30, 2011.

• Technology upgrades of $12.6 million through Sept. 30, 2011.

In addition to the money for elementary and secondary education, the state will spend $44 million this year and the same amount next year to restore money the governor proposed cutting from higher education.

State Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak asked that local school boards follow two core principles: Make investments most likely to have the biggest impact on improving schools. Use the money efficiently, with a sense of urgency, to take full advantage of it.

"As the president noted, these stimulus funds present us with an unprecedented opportunity to boost the economy in the short run while increasing student achievement for the long term," Dr. Zahorchak said.

The state also issued a guide on how the money should be spent.

If a school district receives more money than the rate of inflation, it is expected to use at least 80 percent of it to expand programs and services to students from a "menu of specific proven academic programs," including access to a pre-kindergarten program for all children, an extended school day or year, tutoring for students struggling in math, reducing class size, full-day kindergarten for all, intensive teacher professional development and offering new curricula and advanced courses.

While some of the funds are one-time grants, the state is advising school districts to consider the basic education subsidy money for ongoing programs and services.

More details are also available at www.pde.state.pa.us/stimulus.


Education writer Eleanor Chute can be reached at echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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