Wake discusses how to spend stimulus

RALEIGH Wake County School Board members are discussing how to spend the first half of an estimated $30 million in stimulus money it is expected to receive for special education.

Of the $15 million, about $500,000 would go towards preschool programs and the remaining dollars would be spent on K-12 special education, according to county officials.

School leaders say one-third of the K-12 money, about $5.5 million, is needed to bridge fiscal years. It would be used to pay salaries of teachers and other staff who are paid with project funds.

In addition, $4.2 million would go towards technology for classrooms and central services staff.

The biggest chunk of preschool money, $200,000, would be spent on eight teacher assistants to accommodate additional special needs children.

"Since 1975, Congress was supposed to fund schools 40 percent, and they've only been giving about 10-12 percent," said Marvin Connelly, Wake County's assistant superintendent of Student Support Services.

He said the significant increase in funding will help the school system support and educate some of its most precious students.

When asked how it will stimulate the economy, Connelly said it will spark more business --perhaps positions with vendors, who create, sell and maintain technology and other services, which the school system will be using.

Wake County school leaders are also considering applying for federal stimulus money to offer financial incentives to teachers at underperforming schools.

While federal Teacher Incentive Fund or TIF grants have been awarded since 2006 more money is being offered under the federal stimulus plan.

Other North Carolina school districts that have received grants in the past include Cumberland County $1.7million, Guilford County $5million and Mecklenburg County $4.9million.

The grants are supposed to reward teachers who improve student achievement at schools where at least 30% of students were eligible for free or reduced price lunch.

In a finance committee meeting Wednesday, school board members asked school staff to research whether it would be better to offer teachers who have improved student achievement at a lower income schools or offer the higher pay to teachers interested in going to underperforming, lower income schools to make a difference.

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