US gives local schools big boost, but concerns over future remain

| News Manager

The federal government has allocated $100 billion to the education sector to stem massive education cuts by states and fund programs for special education, low-income students and early childhood initiatives. Missouri has received $141 million for its education systems.

Mark Stockwell, chief financial officer of the Clayton school district, said that Clayton’s high property value has resulted in the money being most helpful in supporting bonds for renovations and additions, also known as Qualified School Construction Bonds.

“The stimulus act is essentially playing the interest down on those bonds,” Stockwell said. “We’re going to pay less than 1.4 percent interest rate on those bonds and save $2.5 million over the life of the bonds.”

The amount saved on the Qualified School Construction Bonds, combined with other government bonds and subsidy payments, could total up to $3.5 million over the next 20 years.

Approximately $38,000 has been allocated to early intervention programs. These are programs that are intended to identify children who need help before they have been identified as having an educational disability.

Stockwell said, “We can get them caught up earlier and avoid future needs.”

Another portion of the funding goes to Title I federal revenues for resident students and Title I moneys for transfer students, totaling about $225,000 over the next two years. Title I is a government policy that aims to promote the academic achievement of disadvantaged students.

“These programs were created to support initiatives in the early-level grades,” Stockwell said. “I believe that most people would say that all kids must read effectively, or they can’t progress through the systems. Title I funding will have a big impact on that.”

Rich Carver, chief financial officer for the special school district in Missouri, said that up to $80 million has been allocated over the next two years for schools that provide special education.

“We’re in pretty solid financial shape without the stimulus package, but we did cut a few positions, not because of budget constraints,” he said. “We’ll be putting $2 million this year into the salary components.”

Much of the money will go into supporting part-time employees and professional development programs for teachers and staff.
Carver expressed concerns over what will happen once the stimulus money runs out.

“We’re going to be dealing with lower property taxes revenue, and that’s where funding is from. There’s going to be significant decrease in state finding,” he said. “We’ll have a challenge in dealing with a lower revenue base. We’ll have to make some cuts here, and it depends on how much state aid and federal aid drops to determine what cuts we’ll have to make.”

Junior Allison Pearson, an educational studies major, plans on pursuing a career in educational policy. She said she would like to participate in Teach For America, which saw a record number of college graduates last year join the program.

“I know their application rate has gone way up, and people are thinking about that because the job market is pretty shaky,” she said. “Those sorts of programs are more competitive, and keeping those jobs is probably more competitive because it’s hard to hire people. That’s definitely something to think about when going into that field. The workforce is still flexible, and it’s not as steady as you think it is.”