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State News: August 2009

 

 

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Education Stimulus Money Hits States Early

By Mikel Chavers, CSG Associate Editor
More than $11 billion in stimulus education funding to states will be available a month early to help save jobs and drive education reform, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
That’s the second part of the stimulus funding for education. States will get the remaining Title I funding, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funding and vocational rehabilitation dollars early.
“The sooner we are able to make that funding available for districts to use, the easier it is for them to get their programs in place,” said Catherine Cross Maple, the deputy education secretary for New Mexico. “It will and does have an immediate effect on the end of this last school year and upcoming year and the first part of the next school year.”
New Mexico, like many other states was forced to cut its education budget. “New Mexico is experiencing a budget deficit in education,” Maple said. But it’s not as dramatic as states hit harder by the recession such as Ohio, neighboring California and Michigan, for example, Maple said.
“The special education and Title I money is not used to offset all of the cuts that have happened in education as a whole,” Maple said.
Instead, the stimulus funds will beef up programs.
In April, the first 50 percent of each state’s Title I Recovery Act funds, disabilities education act funds and vocational rehabilitation funds were distributed to the states. The remaining 50 percent, or $11.37 billion, was supposed to hit the states Sept. 30, but now states will get the rest of the stimulus dollars for education Sept. 1, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
The Title I funding for low-income students and the disabilities education act funding is designed for school districts to ramp up efforts to serve disadvantaged kids, said Maple. The sooner the school districts can have their share of the state’s money, the sooner those programs will get a boost, she said.
“There is an immediacy to being able to use this money effectively and wisely,” Maple said. “These two program areas will help close the achievement gap.”
The $5 billion in Title I funding hitting the states early will go to local educational agencies for schools that have many impoverished students who are at risk of not meeting education standards, according to a U.S. Department of Education press release.
The $6.1 billion in disabilities education act funding hitting the states early goes to programs helping students with disabilities, according to the release.
The $270 million in vocational rehabilitation funding is particularly for those with significant disabilities, the press release said.
In New Mexico, stimulus vocational rehabilitation dollars will help the state serve more clients, avoiding waiting lists when possible—something the state can do when it has more money for those types of programs.
“We can serve the client list without having to put them in an order of selection and serve the clients in a more timely manner,” Maple said.
The stimulus funding may come at just the right time, Maple said.  
From an administrative angle, the end of September closes a quarter for New Mexico, so the earlier the state gets the money before Sept. 30, the less it has to deal with a huge waterfall of deadlines come the end of September.
So in this case, the earlier the money comes in, the better, Maple said.
 

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