Columbia schools to receive money to help homeless children

Tuesday, October 6, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Columbia Public Schools will receive nearly $15,000 in federal stimulus money to better serve homeless students in addition to the other funds granted earlier this year. The district was notified last week and, as of Friday, had yet to receive guidance from the state on how that money can be used, said Sally Beth Lyon, chief academic officer.

The district will also receive roughly $99,000 in Title II-D funds, which must be used to enhance the use of technology in schools. At its September meeting, the Columbia School Board voted to use this money to pay for more online courses at the high school level. In addition to paying course fees to private vendors, the district would also like to use the money to offer interested teachers the opportunity to develop online classes for the district’s network, Lyon said.

“Because it’s one-time money, it's not a permanent increase in our budget,” Lyon said. “We need to invest it in programs that are transformative but will also be sustainable.”

The district will run into problems if it funds programs that will require hiring additional faculty. Either they could only be hired for two years, or a plan would need to be set in place for how extra costs would be absorbed into the budget, Lyon explained.

In addition, the district will receive $2,334,845 in Title I funding to improve academic achievement among disadvantaged students. The money can be incorporated into the district’s budget over two years. The board voted in September to allocate $520,000 of the money to early childhood education, specifically a reading intervention in elementary schools called “Reading Recovery,” Lyon said.

The district will also receive $4,060,000 in stimulus money to be used in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Lyon said the district is thinking about using some of this money to purchase an additional early childhood facility or one that would serve suspended or struggling students.

Columbia Public Schools is still learning about the requirements and guidelines it must follow when allocating money into the budget. All federal stimulus money comes to the district from the state, so the state is responsible for telling the district how it can and can’t use it, Lyon said. To receive the funds, the district must incorporate them into its budget.

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