By Gary Janssen
I assume many of you have been reading about the federal stimulus dollars for education and have been wondering what kind of impact they will have on North Tama County Community Schools. I have been wondering the same thing myself over the past couple of months as both the state government and the state Department of Education have been working out the details. Some excellent training has been provided for school leaders and as a result of that training I can pass along what I know so far.
The biggest group of funds, named ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) funds, is divided into two categories. The first is $44,316 that we are supposed to receive sometime this month. However, this is exactly the same amount of funding to our school that was cut by the Governor back in December in an effort to balance the state budget. Therefore, these really are just "replacement dollars" that were guaranteed by the State a year ago when we presented our budget to the public; they do not represent "new" or additional funds for this fiscal year.
The second group of ARRA funds received from the federal government amounts to $219,194 for the next fiscal year, 2010. That is a large sum of money, but at the same time promised state aid to the district for FY2010 is being cut $251,864. So, from the time we submitted our FY2010 budget in April, the net loss is actually $32,670.
We all understand that these are difficult times and appreciate any financial support to help educate our children. However, it is also important to understand that these one-time ARRA funds are not "new money" - instead, collectively we are actually losing a portion of state aid that we expected to receive, as mentioned above.
Regarding other funding that is coming from the federal government, we will see an increase of $30,892 in Title I funds. Title I is a governmental aid program to schools designed to help improve academic opportunities for disadvantaged students. Currently, our Title I costs exceed our Title I revenues; so these funds will be used primarily to pay excess Title I costs.
We also will be receiving an additional $73,728 in IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) funds for help with our special education programs. Again as with Title I, our costs exceed our revenue in this area so this additional revenue will really help.
In conclusion, dealing with this whole school finance issue is a unique undertaking with limited timeframes and deadlines imposed by both the state and federal government. There are also bound to be changes before it is all over. Therefore, as a district, we have adopted the following strategy: we will wait until we receive the money before making a commitment to spend it, we will prioritize all funds to cover shortfalls in promised revenue, and we will have a plan in place that will dictate that we distribute any excess funds meaningfully and purposefully in the best interests of our students.