Washington Co. schools getting stimulus money

June 19, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Washington County Public Schools expects to receive at least $9.4 million in federal money through the government's $787 billion economic stimulus package.

That money will be spent during fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1, and fiscal year 2011, Chief Financial Officer Chris South said. The money will go to the school system's general fund in fiscal year 2010, to local Title I schools and to help students with disabilities.

South said all spending must be approved by the Maryland State Department of Education.

About $1.324 million has been designated for Washington County Public Schools through the portion of the federal stimulus package called the "State Fiscal Stabilization Fund," South said. That money is distributed by Gov. Martin O'Malley to be spent on education, hospitals, roads and other needs.

South said O'Malley chose to spend that money on education this year and gave school systems the same amount of state funding they were expecting to receive through a legislatively mandated funding program for schools known as the Thornton plan.


"This is not new money," South said. "We would have gotten the money under Thornton anyway. (The governor) is mandated to give us that money."

A spokesman for O'Malley said Maryland stands to receive $4 billion in federal stimulus money and will spend $720 million of that on education.

South said O'Malley will receive more money to distribute for fiscal year 2011, but there has been no announcement about how that money will be spent.

Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Michael Markoe says the school system expects to receive $2,779,725 to be spent in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 on programs and personnel at the eight local Title I schools.

Title I schools enroll a large percentage of low-income students.

About $1.8 million of that money will be spent on professional development for teachers in Title I schools and for a teacher who could fill in for teachers participating in professional development.

"The thought behind that is we can enhance the quality of instruction and not have to eliminate positions in a two-year period," Markoe said of the spending plan.

About $550,000 of the Title I funding will be spent on student intervention and enrichment, Markoe said.

That money would pay for intervention personnel -- most likely one staff member at each of the Title I schools -- to help students in prekindergarten through second grade, Markoe said. The goal is for students to be performing at or above grade level by the time they reach later grades.

Additional money will be spent on supplies, material and technology for the county's Title I schools.

The other portion of Washington County Public Schools' share of the federal economic stimulus package will go to programs that serve students with mental and physical disabilities. Markoe said $2,637,462 in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Recover Funds will be received in fiscal year 2010. The school system expects the same amount in fiscal year 2011, he said.

Markoe said $1.2 million of those funds in fiscal year 2010 will be spent making sure students with disabilities can be served within the school system.

Some public school students with disabilities are placed in private-care facilities like Laurel Hill School at Brook Lane, which provides a learning environment for students with emotional and behavioral challenges. In that case, Washington County Public Schools pays a certain amount for the public school student to attend the private facility.

Markoe said the $1.2 million will be spent to create programs that duplicate the therapy and intensive support that students would receive in a private facility like Laurel Hall. This would keep more students in Washington County Public Schools, save money, offer more control over student academic programs and give students access to additional opportunities within the school system, Markoe said.

About $350,000 of the money targeting students with disabilities will be spent providing middle and high school teachers with intensive professional development that allows them to better assist struggling readers, Markoe said. These teachers will be specially trained to work with students with mental and physical disabilities.

Another $296,000 is to be spent on job training services for students with disabilities, Markoe said. About $500,000 will be spent on community outreach programs that assist parents of special needs students, Markoe said.

About $115,000 is planned for psychological services to support students transitioning from private facilities or to support students with emotional needs in Washington County Public Schools.

Markoe said the federal stimulus funds would be a boon to the school system.

"From my perspective, this is an opportunity to give a booster shot that we otherwise would not be able to provide just because the funding wouldn't be available," Markoe said.

Markoe said school officials are using the stimulus money for one-time expenses and nonrecurring items to ensure the school system does not go over a "funding cliff" in two years when the stimulus money runs out.

Total: About $9.4 million expected so far for fiscal years 2010 and 2011

State Fiscal Stabilization Fund: $1.324 million

Title I Funding: $2,779,725 spread over fiscal years 2010 and 2011

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Recovery Funds: $2,637,462 expected for fiscal year 2010 with the same amount expected in fiscal year 2011

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