Schools get 3-year grant

November 22, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

A three-year grant of $17.4 million will help the Washington County school system plan future programs better, according to Supervisor of Federal Programs William Abbott.

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The Maryland State Department of Education recently approved the combined federal and state funds under its School Accountability Funding For Excellence program.

It is the first time the state awarded more than one year's worth of the SAFE funds at one time. "The beauty of this part is it's a three-year thing," said Abbott. "That's kind of unprecedented."

Having the money secured in advance allows the administration to plan more accurately and further ahead. On a year-to-year basis, programs can be scrapped when funding is cut. Now the board knows what it will be getting through 2002.


SAFE will provide about $5.3 million a year and the state is funding another $550,000 yearly through other grants, according to Abbott.

Maryland's Tomorrow, a program that identifies potential high school dropouts, will bring $148,206. Challenge Grants, which target schools with high percentages of poor students, will bring $287,000.

Another source, Title VI Innovative Education Programs, adds $124,326 for library supplies, computer hardware and other equipment.

The SAFE grant includes money for a tobacco prevention program, middle school dropout prevention and safe and drug-free schools programs.

More than 100 employees will be paid with the combined grants, including 54 resource teachers, 62 instructional assistants, 10 parent-involvement assistants and six family liaison workers, according to Abbott.

"One hundred percent of the money goes to programs for kids," he said. "You can't get any better than that." About 90 percent of the grants are used for personnel, including salaries and fixed charges.

The General Assembly created the four-year SAFE program during its 1998 session. It provided more than $61 million in additional money in its first year for school programs serving children at risk of not performing at high academic levels, according to the state.

Based on State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick's plan, it includes grants for specific programs aimed at improving academics, extending elementary education and helping students who speak limited or no English.

Over four years, the program will distribute a total of $186 million to school systems based on formulas that weigh factors such as the number of at-risk 4-year-olds or the number of children receiving free and reduced-price lunches.

Abbott worked for 26 years in Cumberland, Md., before taking a job with the local School Board in July. He had submitted the SAFE grant application by Sept. 30. Deputy Superintendent Theresa Flak said he "hit the ground running."

School Board member Andrew Humphreys said the three-year time scale is an improvement. "It's great to see us moving toward comprehensive planning. This is a classic example of that."

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