ACPS to Receive Stimulus Funds

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As what was once speculation now inches closer toward financial reality, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) are much closer to capitalizing on a portion of the $787 billion economic stimulus package that became law February 17.

Though the exact numbers and school allocations are not yet official, as of February 23 it is estimated that ACPS should stand to gain $5.4 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act over the next two years, according to the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor.

The additional funding for Alexandrias schools is just a fraction of the stimulus packages broader $53 billion spending effort in education and training, a figure found on the new recovery.gov website referenced by President Barack Obama in his February 24 speech to Congress.

Put into perspective, the estimated funding would be almost three percent of the school systems proposed $197.2 million FY 2010 budget.

The current figure of $5.4 million over the next two years is less than the previously reported figure of $9.5 million, the estimate before the bills final incarnation.

This is due to a slight change in procedure that placed the funds allocated for school construction under the states supervision, rather than going directly to the schools, according to Margaret Byess, ACPS assistant superintendent for finance.

Now it is estimated that Alexandria schools will receive around $1.6 million in construction funding from the state for FY 2010. Byess said the funding in this category has pretty broad federal requirements, allowing money to be used in a number of ways, ranging from teacher quality to technology to class size reduction.

The other $5.4 million is split under two different headings – Title I-A and IDEA funding that are based on a formula involving student population and demographic characteristics, with the ultimate purpose of
elevating student achievement across the board.

The original wording of the legislation had stipulated that schools needed to spend each years allotted funds within 15 months of receiving them, Byess said. The funding can only be used to supplement whats already been budgeted for the fiscal year.

Figuring out how best to spend the money in time shouldnt be a hurdle for ACPS.
We have plenty of above-and-beyond activities that we are looking at doing and want to do, Byess said. They are all things that are good, appropriate uses [of the funds] that will help academic achievement in the school system.

Byess could not specify on the exact programs since the staff has not yet briefed the school board, but explained that the process itself does not change from any other budgeting process.

Its a collaborative process involving principals, senior staff and the board, Byess said. The staff will take a recommendation to the board, but the board has final decision-making authority like with all of our budgets.

The schools are looking to use the influx of stimulus funds as one-time expenditures and not on projects that have recurring costs beyond the moneys expiration date in 2012.

Byess said that the financial impact of the stimulus package and the ways in which the money can be used by both ACPS and the city should feature prominently in the discussion on March 9 when the groups meet for a joint budget work session.

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