Schools to receive one-time federal funds |

Schools to receive one-time federal funds

Douglas Greenwood, of the Record Staff

In a special legislative session Wednesday, Nov. 17, Utah lawmakers approved a resolution to accept the $101 million federal education stimulus. The package, referred to as Edujobs, is designed to stimulate education jobs by hiring new teachers, replacing positions that had to be cut or reinstating furloughed days, among other possibilities.

With the first projected revenue gain this year since fiscal year 2007, the state education deficit is expected to be roughly $6 million less than initially anticipated, according to an executive appropriations update released Nov. 16. The federal government is allowing states to use a portion of the stimulus to backfill deficits of up to $50 million, said Utah House District 25 Rep. Joel Briscoe.

"Right now we are running in the red," Briscoe said. But legislators are looking to use the funds to pay down the $45 million dollar deficit, which would bring the balance to zero, he said.

The remainder of the package will be divided among the school districts throughout the state, where administrators will decide how to use the funds. Park City School District expects to receive about $385,000.

Superintendent Ray Timothy said he plans to use it to expand the three and four-year-old preschool program currently at McPolin Elementary to the three remaining elementary schools in the district.

Each district has until Sept. 2012 to spend the money. Timothy said the district will spread it across the program through the next two years. The grant is one-time money and Timothy said he doesn’t intend to use it to start a new program without the confidence that the district could successfully absorb the cost.

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"We’d prioritize our funding so that by the third year we’d be able to pick up the cost for the program," he said. "We’ll be reviewing current programs and determining the value of those. Any that aren’t as high on the priority list we would consider cutting."

North Summit School District

About two year ago, administrators at North Summit School District had to cut about 10 days of teacher-development from the school year that were part of the Quality Teaching Block Grant, said Superintendent Steve Carlsen.

Through redistributing maintenance and operations monies, the district reinstated four of those days. Carlsen said he plans to use a portion of the $118,000 North Summit School District will receive to re-add four more.

The teacher development program would account for about $70,000, Carlsen said. How to use the remaining $48,000 has yet to be determined, however.

The school board in North Summit wants to consider using the remainder of the grant for the support staff. Carlsen said he would like to use it for further teacher development, citing the need to train teachers in new common-core curriculum standards slated to be completely implemented by 2015.

North Summit didn’t have any furloughed days to reinstate. The only teacher positions the district cut were through attrition or not replacing teachers who retired, according to Carlsen. The district didn’t want to add any salaries based on the grant.

"In our negotiations we understood it was one-time money," he said.

Carlsen added that he hopes the district can rearrange the budget in order to keep offering the eight, paid days of teacher development when the stimulus money is gone.

We are hopeful that in another year the state will be able to give us more money than they have," he said.

South Summit School District

Administrators in the South Summit School District are also hesitant to start any new programs without the assurance that funding will continue, according to South Summit Superintendent Barry Walker.

The district will receive about $130,000 and use it to hire teacher aides in the classrooms that need additional support.

South Summit School District administrators cut some teaching positions through attrition last year. Rather than reinstating those positions with one-time money.

"Those aides would go in to help try and fill in that space," Walker said.

He added that aides would provide support in what may need to be a temporary capacity.

The remainder of the stimulus package will likely go toward performance-based teacher bonuses, Walker said.

Some legislators suggested rejecting the money on the principle, saying they do not want to let federal government mandate state affairs, according to Briscoe.

"I don’t hear anyone complaining about federal money that funds Hill Air Force Base, or that funds road construction," Briscoe said.

In the end, only six senators and 14 representatives voted against the resolution to accept the money.

"The controversy of ‘we don’t want to take federal funds’ should have been a non-issue," Timothy said. "It’s money that we needed here in Park City and it will be a direct benefit to our students."