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Stimulus may help schools

Teachers say federal money could offset projected education budget cuts

Posted: February 24, 2009 1:23 a.m.
Updated: February 24, 2009 4:30 a.m.
 
Millions of dollars from the $787 billion federal stimulus package could trickle into Santa Clarita Valley school district budgets, offsetting some projected budget cuts, local educators said Monday.

"We certainly hope that we can utilize these additional funds to save jobs and save programs," said Sheldon Wigdor, Sulphur Springs School District board president.

School districts like Sulphur Springs, Castaic Union School District and Newhall School District could be given Title I and special education funding, known as IDEA.

Title I funding is federal money for schools with a high percentage of low-income students.

The money comes at a crucial time as many school districts, like Sulphur Springs, use general fund money to operate special education programs.

"Every special education dollar that we get frees up an additional dollar in the general fund," Wigdor said.

Sulphur Springs could receive $1.3 million in Title I funds and special education programs over a two- or three-year period, said district Superintendent Robert Nolet.

School leaders have yet to figure out when the money will come in.

"We've not seen anything absolutely definitive about when resources are going to flow," Nolet said.

Sulphur Springs district officials expected to cut $3 million from their projected $46.5 million 2009-10 budget.

The Newhall School District could see $1.2 million over the next two years for special education funding, said Superintendent Marc Winger. Another $431,000 would come through Title I funding, he said.

The money will most likely be used for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 fiscal years, he said.

The special education funding would offset some budget cuts, although slices to the budget are still likely, Winger said.

"We will take it and we're very happy to have it, but it doesn't solve the problem by any means," Winger said.

Newhall district officials expected to trim about $3 million out of their projected $57 million 2009-10 budget.

Stimulus money goes through the state before school districts see it, raising concerns about whether the money will flow directly to districts or if the state will take a portion, Winger said.

William S. Hart Union High School District officials initially estimated receiving $3.4 million for the 2009-10 fiscal year for special education funding and modernization, said Superintendent Jaime Castellanos.

Estimates for the 2010-11 school year hit $5.7 million, he said.

But with modernization funding for schools out of the stimulus package, those numbers will be smaller, he said.

College of the Canyons qualifies for a number of programs that would benefit from the stimulus package, ranging from student financial aid to funding for National Science Foundation and health professions training, said college spokesman John McElwain.

Specifics of the funding and when it would be available to the community college are among the biggest concerns, he said.

Any fresh funding benefits student education.

"The bottom line is that people should want stimulus funds to go to your community college and education in general because that's the core bedrock of a strong workforce," he said.

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