AUGUSTA, Maine — The initial flow of stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for education purposes should begin flowing to school systems early next month.
Gov. John Baldacci filed the application for State Fiscal Stabilization Funds to the U.S. Department of Education earlier this month based on needs detailed by the state Department of Education. The application already has had its initial review and the DOE expects to receive an initial grant of $27.8 million which will be used to restore the cuts made to local school districts earlier this year, according to a press release from the state Education Department.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced late Tuesday that the funds are now available for Maine.
Approximately $129 million of recovery funds are available for K-12 education over the next two years. All of the money will be funneled to local schools to make up for anticipated reductions in state funds. The first $27 million will come in the current fiscal year, followed by $43 million for the 2009-10 school year and $59 million for the 2010-11 school year.
The recovery and reinvestment act places a strong emphasis on early childhood programs. It encourages their development and expansion and allows states flexibility in the use of funds to encourage those programs.
School systems that are considering development of early childhood preschool programs have been invited to a conference to be held 1-4 p.m. Monday, May 4, at Florian Hall at the Central Maine Commerce Center in Augusta, where they will have an opportunity to develop an understanding of the national perspective on early childhood education initiatives.
The conference will focus on models of public preschool delivery, review specific information about what funds can be used for the development of those programs, review the application process for programs, examine collaboration models at both the national and local levels, and learn about the DOE’s plans to support the programs through collaboration coaches.
Along with early childhood programs, recovery funds may be used to help pay for part of the local share of the cost to bring laptop computers to the state’s high school students. The Legislature is currently considering a proposal that would give Education Commissioner Susan A. Gendron authority to sign a contract with Apple computers to expand the current program of laptops for grades seven and eight to all high school students.
In a survey of high schools conducted earlier this month, almost half indicated they would participate in the laptop program, an additional 40 percent said they were continuing to investigate and working with their school boards on the matter, and 12 percent said they would not participate at this time.