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Stimulus monies ‘welcome,’ will not benefit proration this year

Over $2.5 million will flow into the coffers of the Butler County School System over the next two years, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, better known as the president’s stimulus package.

However, the monies – which total $2,788,370 – will not benefit the current state of proration in the school system, said Mike Looney, county superintendent.

“This first monies will not be released until October 1, which puts in our next fiscal year, so there will be no impact on our current school year,” Looney said.

What the stimulus money will do, Looney said, is to “offset additional reductions that will come.”

“We have already been told the education budget for next year will shrink even smaller than this year’s. So this stimulus money will help fill the gap.”

The money will be broken down as follows: $952,317 for ARRA Title 1, Part A; $974, 132 for ARRA IDEA Part B; $27, 328 for ARRA IDEA PART B Preschool; $30, 577 for ARRA Title II, Part D, and $804, 016 for ARRA State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

Looney explained exactly how the monies will be used in each category.

“Title I, Part A provides services to students who are eligible for free/reduced lunches. With 84 percent of our students in Butler County eligible, this will help us hire additional teachers and provide for after-school programs,” he said.

“IDEA Part B is allocated to special education. We typically use this category of monies to hire special education teachers and aides, and it seems logical we will use it to re-hire some of the displaced teachers in that category.”

The system currently serves 15 percent of its student population through special education programs, with the majority of those students found at Greenville Middle School, Looney said.

“The PART B Preschool monies are meant to provide special education services as early as possible, even prior to kindergarten, so this money will go toward that goal,” he said.

Title II Part D will go toward professional development for the system’s teachers.

The last large allotment, the Fiscal Stabilization Fund, will be used to prevent additional teacher layoffs by allowing the system to re-hire teachers, the superintendent said.

The stimulus package monies give the system breathing room without being the ultimate solution.

“Please let me stress this money is welcome; but we will still fall short of the revenue we have lost,” Looney said.

“We are thankful for every dollar we get, but we recognize it is not sufficient. We still will have an additional burden on our teachers and principals to meet all the expectations on the federal, state and local levels and do it with less.”

The superintendent said a major concern was sustaining the “incredible progress” the system has made in the last four years with “significantly few resources.”

“For example, we are due to purchase new math textbooks next year. We need them, but I am not sure we can afford them,” Looney said. “That leaves our teachers and students using math texts at the end of their life cycle.”

On a positive note, Looney added, the additional stimulus package monies would allow the system “to retain some valuable folks that will assist us in tackling the challenge at hand.”