Education funding looking up?

Published 12:09 am Sunday, March 29, 2009

Even after an educational briefing on the federal stimulus money last week, local school systems still don’t have any numbers to crunch for their budgets.

But, what they do have is a little hope.

“I’m a little more optimistic than I was three to four months ago,” said Pike County Schools Superintendent Mark Bazzell.

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Local superintendents were expecting to find out just what a $700 billion bailout would mean to school systems in Pike County Monday, but actual numbers still remain to be seen.

What they do know is funding will come for school systems under special education and Title 1 categories, but Bazzell said he believes some of the monies will also assist with funding teacher positions.

“We’re not going to lose the 10 or 11 teachers that we thought we were going to lose,” Bazzell said. “If they stay about what we think they are going to be, I’m figuring that we’re going to lose three. That’s a direct result of stimulus money that the government is committing to education.”

In a time of the largest education budget deficit in state history, Bazzell said the future looked a lot less bright before Monday’s meeting.

“We’ve taken a situation that four months ago looked dismal and turned it around for the next two years,” Bazzell said. “We’re not only going to be able to survive, but we’re going to be able to do some additional things.”

Still, many questions remain unanswered, Bazzell said.

Questions like how these new programs will remain funded after two years and how much of the money will be used to level staffing are things Bazzell said he hopes to have answered when regional education meetings begin April 3.

Troy City Schools Superintendent Linda Felton-Smith could not be reached for comment before press time, but she said earlier the school system will also be waiting on the regional meeting for more exact numbers.

Even at the higher education level, the situation may be looking up.

Marcus Paramore, Troy University’s director of government relations, said the university is hopeful to get its fair share.

“We feel very optimistic because we feel like the language in the bill specifically tells the governor and the states how to distribute that money,” Paramore said.

Paramore said language in the bill will call states to allot money to schools based on the shortfall they’ve received, and since university’s were cut the highest, he feels that will mean good news in terms of federal funding.

He said K-12 schools will receive the bulk, but unlike K-12 schools, universities will be able to use the money more flexibly in their budgets.

“Will it get us back to those preproration rates? No,” Paramore said. “But it will help us get back to those points.”