Schools waiting to see stimulus effect

Published 9:55 pm Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Nothing’s certain yet, but federal stimulus money for education could actually hinder local school system funds in the long run.

At least that’s what Pike County Schools Superintendent Mark Bazzell said might happen if the funds allotted are specifically designated to creating new programs.

“Unless there’s language in those legislations that will give us flexibility, then it’s potentially a problem for us,” Bazzell said.

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“If it’s not, then we’re still facing those same narrow criteria.”

“It doesn’t matter how much money they give us if we’d be forced into a situation that we would create new programs and in two years not be able to sustain them.”

The majority of funding, Bazzell said will likely be designated to Title 1, which creates these supplementary education programs, and the Individuals with Disabilities Act.

But even then, it still could be beneficial to both Pike County and Troy City Schools in a budget facing severe deficits.

That aid, however, just might not put a stop to projected cuts in teachers and increased students in classrooms.

“Based on the governor’s proposed budget, we have received projected numbers, and we know the governor raised the (classroom) divisors,” said Troy City Schools Superintendent Linda Felton-Smith.

“With that increase in the divisor, that means we’re going to be 15 teachers short from our foundation program if that remains, but this is all projected.”

Felton-Smith said also some of the funds could be designated for school construction projects, which both systems said they need. It will be March 23 before either Pike County or Troy knows what the stimulus money will mean for upcoming budgets, when the schools meet in Montgomery for a state education meeting.

“We’re really in a wait and see mode right now, and it looks like March 23 will be the day we will get the details on all of this,” Bazzell said.

But that day cuts it close to when both school systems begin formulating a budget for 2010.

Bazzell said Pike County begins the budget process in April, in hopes of passing a budget by the end of the school year.

Felton-Smith said Troy City Schools really begins planning as early as March, but they will also wait until the Alabama Legislature passes a state budget before they have their final plans.