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Christensen Outlines V.I. Education Funding in Stimulus Plan

March 11, 2009 — The territory is due to receive more than $12 million for education and education-related programs in the economic stimulus package approved last month by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama, according to Delegate Donna M. Christensen.
Christensen outlined the funding in a news release issued Tuesday by her office.
The stimulus package, officially called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), shares approximately $268 million in State Fiscal Stabilization funding with the other insular territories.
According to Christensen, the territory will receive $9.4 million under Title I funding, $1.1 million for Educational Technology State grants, and $352,124 under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The Virgin Islands will also receive $1.5 million for Pell Grants, $17,613 for federal work study, $350,904 for vocational rehabilitation and $22,523 for independent living centers.
In all, that adds up to $12.8 million.
"This is funding received above normal formula applications and represents a one-time opportunity to improve teaching and learning programs, increase services to children with disabilities, improve technology in our schools and to make physical improvements to our schools," Christensen said.
Title I, Part A, funds are to be used for schools that have a high concentration of students from families that live in poverty to help improve teaching and learning for students most at risk of failing to meet state academic-achievement standards. The Department of Education (DOE) intends for these funds to create an opportunity to improve education for at-risk students and close achievement gaps while stimulating the economy. While guidance for specific use of the funding is still being developed, suggested uses listed include:
— Establishing a system for identifying and training highly effective teachers;
— Establishing intensive, year-long teacher training for all teachers and principals in elementary schools in corrective action;
— Strengthening and expanding early-childhood education;
— Providing new opportunities for high school students to use high-quality, online software as supplemental materials for math and science;
— Using longitudinal data systems focused on improving achievement;
— Using reading and math coaches to provide professional development to teachers; and
— Establishing or expanding fiscally sustainable extended learning opportunities for Title I eligible students in before, after, summer or extended-year programs.
The U.S. Department of Education will award 50 percent of each state or territory's funding by the end of March. No new applications will be required to receive this portion of the funds, but local governments must submit for review and approval by the DOE an amendment to its consolidated application that addresses how it will meet the record keeping and reporting requirements of the ARRA. These funds will be awarded in addition to the regular FY 2009 grant awards. Local governments can put this funding toward existing approved applications. Four percent of this funding must be used for school-improvement activities.
Funding under the Educational State Technology grants will be made available this fall and guidance on the expenditure of funds will follow.
Funding under the IDEA is to ensure that children with disabilities, including children ages 3 to 5, have access to a free, appropriate public education. The ARRA funding can be used for the implementation of strategies to improve outcomes for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities while stimulating the economy. The DOE plans to award 50 percent of the IDEA Part B Funding by the end of March. The other half will be awarded by Oct. 1. These grants will be in addition to regular funding for the 2009 fiscal year. A new application is not needed for the first half of the IDEA funding because it will be made based on eligibility for FY 2008 funds.
According to DOE, IDEA Part B funds can be used for short-term investments that have the potential for longterm benefits rather than for expenditures that local governments cannot sustain once recovery funds are expended. Suggested uses include:
— Obtain state-of-the-art assistive-technology devices and provide training in their use to enhance curriculum access for students with disabilities;
— Provide intensive district-wide professional development for special education and regular teachers;
— Develop or expand the capacity to collect and use data to improve teaching and learning;
— Expand the availability and range of inclusive placement options for preschoolers with disabilities and developing a capacity of public and private preschool programs to serve them; and
— Hire transition coordinators to work with employers to develop placement for youth with disabilities.
Governors of states and territories will have to apply for State Stabilization Funding, 67 percent of which becomes available by the end of March, and the funding will be made available two weeks after the approval of the application. The remainder of the funding will become available between July 1 and Sept. 30, contingent on the receipt of additional information. Most of the state stabilization funds — 81.8 percent — must be used to support public early-childhood learning, K-12 and higher education. The remainder can be used for school modernization, public safety and other government services.
While DOE encourages urgent use of the funds, localities have until 2011 to obligate them.
With approval from DOE, localities can count program funds as non-federal funds to maintain fiscal effort under maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements. The ARRA language requires that the Department of Education consult with the Department of Interior as to how stabilization funds will be spent in the territories. Territorial governors have been seeking flexibility in use of the stabilization funds.
"As the territories have specific realities that they have to address with regards to education, I am supportive of Gov. deJongh's and other territorial governors' requests in this regard," Christensen said.
Stimulus dollars for Pell Grants and federal work study, which fund college education for eligible low-income students, will be available for the 2009-10 school year.
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