GET BREAKING NEWS IN YOUR BROWSER. CLICK HERE TO TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS.

X

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

North Middlesex School District Superintendent Dr. Maureen Marshall updated her School Committee with an Aug. 29 memo that spells out the state of the state. She copied Nashoba Publishing on her memo.

You’ve probably seen in the news over the past few days that Massachusetts schools have been awarded federal “Race to the Top” and “Education Jobs Grant” funding. I’d like to update you on what this may mean for North Middlesex Regional School District.

On Aug. 24, Gov. Deval Patrick announced $125,000,000 of local allocations for Race to the Top. Half of the $250m is allocated to local school districts while the other half is to be used at the governor’s discretion for other educational initiatives. The announcement can be found at this address: http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=gov3pressrelease&L=1&L0=Home&sid=Agov3&b=pressrelease&f=100824_RTTT_win&csid=Agov3.

North Middlesex’s allocation is $72,860 to be received over the next four years, or $18,215 per year. At this point, the administration has not met to discuss the possible initiatives that can be undertaken with this funding. We hope to meet as a team shortly after the opening of school. Any initiative must be congruent with the spirit and intent of the Race to the Top grant filed with the United States Department of Education by the state of Massachusetts.

On Thursday, the allocations for Education Jobs Grant funding were released. Massachusetts schools are expected to receive more than $200m of federal funding aimed at creating and maintaining school personnel and teaching positions. As assumed a few weeks ago, the governor’s use of State Fiscal Stabilization Funds to fully fund the Chapter 70 allocations as voted by the Legislature has now been adjusted down by $55m from the $75m that was used to balance the Commonwealth’s budget June 30. That means that the overall amount that we were expecting from Chapter 70 plus the state grant has been reduced by $275,385 and will be supplemented with Education Jobs Grant funding. Of the $1,203,025 of Education Jobs Grant funding allocated to North Middlesex, $927,640 is the real revenue increase in fiscal 2011.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education held a teleconference on Thursday afternoon to inform more than 250 attendees of how this funding can and cannot be expended. Associate Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and School Business Services Administrator Jay Sullivan reviewed much of section G of the initial guidance released on the Education Jobs Fund Program and fielded many questions from the audience. Here are some of the highlights:

* This is considered a federal grant award and must be applied for by the school district and reported on based on federal ARRA reporting requirements;

* An initial 10 percent will be forwarded to districts; the remaining funds must be applied for on a monthly basis through specific reporting requirements;

* The intent of the Jobs Bill is to provide additional funding for fiscal 2011; however, districts may carry over funds into fiscal 2012 (mixed message from Washington);

* Only school-level and instructional salaries and associated benefits can be charged to the grant (We may use funds to staff after-school programs);

* The district cannot charge consultant expenditures to the grant, only employee salaries and benefits are eligible expenditures;

* Expenses may be charged retroactively to Aug. 10, 2010;

* There are no local supplanting restrictions;

* The 9 percent Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System match must be assessed on all salaries charged to the grant;

* Districts may use funds for unemployment costs in fiscal 2012 and perhaps fiscal 2013 in association with layoffs of personnel in positions funded with Education Jobs money in fiscal 2011;

* This grant does not require further appropriation and is to be used at the discretion of the School Committee;

* In regional school districts, member towns cannot reduce their assessments already acted upon at annual town meeting to approve the budget.

In review, this year’s total funding will be a combination of Chapter 70, a state grant from the Commonwealth’s State Fiscal Stabilization Fund and a federal grant from the Education Jobs Bill. This funding can only be accessed by filing separate grants that fulfill grant criteria.

Additionally, each grant will be “tracked” separately and the state and federal grants will be allocated to the district on a monthly basis. After further research, the administration may request the School Committee take additional action on the current fiscal 2011 budget, probably in late September.

This federal funding source is a one-time allocation, because legislators hope that the state of the current economy will improve over the next year. With that fact in mind, the North Middlesex administration will carefully consider any action regarding the use of this money to fund recurring operational expenditures since using a one-time revenue source to fund ongoing operations will create a structural deficit in future budgets and probably require that positions funded by one-time revenues be eliminated.