Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lexington Schools Get More than $500,000 in Additional State Aid

Great News for Lexington MA Public Schools!

Acccording to a story by Michael Phillis/Staff Writer for GateHouse News Service (Lexington Minuteman Newspaper): Lexington Public Schools has received more than $500,000 as part of $204 million in federal funds allocated to Massachusetts to support education.

The funding is a result of Public Law No. 111-226, the Education Jobs Fund, which President Obama signed on Aug. 10.

“This is a nice surprise from the U.S. Congress,” said J.C. Considine, spokesperson for the Department of Education. “This was something the Obama Administration made a priority. You’ve probably been hearing this is a tough budget year. When districts were making their budgets it was rough, this was welcome news.”

Much of the funding was a surprise to Lexington as well.

After Gov. Deval Patrick announced the funding on Aug. 24, the school district learned it would receive $548,918 through the Education Jobs Fund, and an additional State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF) allotment of $37,654.

“What’s new is the Education Jobs program money,” said Mary Ellen Dunn, assistant superintendent of finance and operations for Lexington Public Schools. “We knew something was in the wind … SFSF we had heard we might get something, but that wasn’t going to be confirmed until late August.”

In total, the district will receive $586,572.

“It’s all for supporting learning in the classroom,” said Dunn. “One of the specifics is that it has to be used for learning and teaching.”
According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the primary purpose of the Education Jobs program is to allow local school districts to retain existing employees, to recall or re-hire former employees, and to hire new employees for the 2010-11 school year.

The Obama Administration has said the $10 billion bill could save 160,000 jobs in education this year. Republicans have chastised the bill as a handout to teachers’ unions and ultimately aimed to benefit the election chances of Democrats in the fall.

DESE hopes to have all allocations completed by November of this year.

According DESE, Chapter 70 funding for Massachusetts schools will rise from $4.043 billion in fiscal 2010 to $4.072 billion in fiscal 2011.

Lexington’s Chapter 70 funding increased by $151,400, which represents a per pupil rise of $25, the minimum allowed by the law. Prior to the singing of the Education Jobs Fund, Chapter 70 funding had decreased by $430,000 in the last two years.

“We have just been informed [of the funding] and have no immediate plans to spend the funds at this point. It is still a tough economy,” said Dunn. “What we will probably end up doing, as we always do, is work with the town as to the most appropriate use.”

There is some concern in the district about funding levels for fiscal 2012, when much of the federal stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be exhausted.
“We are all concerned about what this will mean,” said Dunn.
Theresa D'Antuono

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