Georgia’s public school systems, along with other facets of society, are tightening their belts due to the economic situation, but one-time federal stimulus funds are softening that blow a bit. Rockdale County Public Schools will receive about $9 million in stimulus fund resources over the projected 2010 school term.
In February, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the federal stimulus package, was signed into federal law with a one-time allotment of $53.6 billion for a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, designed to help school systems and state agencies minimize cuts and reductions and to advance reforms in certain areas. The federal stimulus package allocated funds to the Georgia budget to help prevent statewide budgetary deficits.
RCPS will receive three types of stimulus funding: about $1.9 million for Title I funds, about $3.1 million for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds, and about $4 million in state fiscal stabilization funds.
Title I funds are given to schools based on their socioeconomic need. IDEA funds are designated for special needs students. Both funds are designated as Special Revenue, not as General Operations funding, meaning that they must supplement, not replace, existing program funding.
The third type of stimulus funding, State Stabilization funds, is designated to help even out state and local budgets to reduce and avoid cutbacks in education and other necessary services in return for a state’s commitment to move forward important education improvements in four areas. These resources are being operated to balance the state's serious reduction and will be provided to the RCPS through the Quality Basic Education funding formula.
Chief Financial Officer Lee Davis of Rockdale Public Schools said, "If it were not for the stabilization fund we would have been in the negative at $6.3 million; instead, we will be at a negative of $2.3 million. The stimulus funds will allow us to potentially add positions."
"We get money but it’s for one group of students. The stabilization is to offset everything," he added.
The budget cuts have caused some changes for RCPS. Nearly 15 paraprofessionals positions were taken away but the position of a long-term substitute was added.
"We shifted around some positions and didn’t have to let any staff go" said Davis. "We did reduce the number of paraprofessionals due to the reduction of funds in state revenue. However, we were able to absorb most of these positions from other funding sources."
Davis reported that if a change would take place he would "like to see the state totally funding the Quality Basic Education. The additional funds would allow us to reduce class size or implement other instructionally sound initiatives."
Neighboring DeKalb County will see the Title I and IDEA allocations for next year, which will increase the planned expenditures by approximately $26 million in the fiscal year 2010 and will receive $23.2 million of ARRA State Stabilization funding.
The RCPS system, Davis believes, is handling this challenge better than most due to their "fiscally conservative manner of operating in the past." The entire state of Georgia is faced with budget cuts due to the reduction in state funding.
"The ARRA (stimulus funding) is helping the school systems because it is reducing some to the dollars cut from our budgets because of reduction in state