Federal recovery money to go to mathematics, reading

BY CLARK CAHILL | MARCH 23, 2009 7:30 AM

Iowa City School District officials will most likely focus on mathematics and reading with the more than $1.1 million they’re expected to receive from the federal economic-recovery package, said the district’s co-director of instruction, Pam Ehly.

Officials want to focus on those areas — by hiring more personnel and providing extra materials and supplies — because they’re considered by the No Child Left Behind Act, she said.

“The connection between the district’s Title-I schools and the No Child Left Behind Act is a primary reason that we might focus on these areas,” Ehly said.

The money given to the district is part of a nearly $50.7 million economic-recovery package for Title-I programs — elementary and secondary schools with a high percentage of children from low-income families — in the state, according to a news release from Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin’s office.

Divided according to the percentage of low-income students per district, the money can be used to hire teachers and teacher assistants, provide tutoring, create school computer labs, fund parent involvement activities, purchase instructional materials, and host professional development for teachers, the release shows.

The extra money comes at a time when the district is examining cuts to lower expenses by $6 million over the next two years.

“When we look at our budget and potential personnel additions, we have to be cautious because the money will only be there for two years,” Ehly said, adding the funding will also save jobs in the district. “We want to be thoughtful that whatever we purchase will have a short-term and a long-term benefits for our students.”

The U.S. Department of Education is expected to award half of the Title-I funding to school districts by the end of March, with the other half awarded in October, according to the news release.

Iowa City School Board President Toni Cilek said she did not know specific information about the funding, but hopes to hear more about it at the board’s Tuesday meeting.

“We are thrilled to have supplemental funding, especially during a budget issue,” she said.

Officials have already begun making cuts, including slashing the summer school program so it’s only offered to those who have to retake failed classes from the prior year or for special-education students, closing its in-house print shop, and laying off its safety coordinator, Superintendent Lane Plugge said.

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