Fed school funding declines

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A cutback in federal funding doesn't mean students will suffer reduced services. It does mean that the Moffat County School District will have to be more innovative on how it uses that money.

"I think it's like everything else, we have to think smarter," said Christine Villard, the district's special education director.

"It's not always a bad thing; it forces us to be efficient."

District officials expect to get $419,003 for the 2004-05 school year to fund programs such as Title I reading and math, English language learners (ELL), teacher training, technology and safe/drug free schools. That's $53,086 less than last year.

"We try to make it up from the general fund, but that's not an unlimited resource," Assistant Superintendent of Schools Joel Sheridan said.

The district has charted a decrease in federal funding for several years, particularly in Title I dollars, which account for 37 percent of the funding. In 2002, the district received $313,000. That went down to $284,000 in 2003 and to $263,000 in 2004. "When the state or federal government cuts back, we have to deal with it," Sheridan said. "There are some programs we have to do regardless of who pays for them."

Most of the Title I program funding is used for salaries.

Title III program funding is at $9,170, not nearly enough to serve the district's growing ELL population. During the 2000-01 school year, there were 87 English language learners. Last year, there were 156.

"That's not even enough for one half of one paraprofessional," Sheridan said.

Federal funding for teacher and principal training is down nearly $5,000, which is a smaller cut than last year's $40,000.

Sheridan said that federal funding levels, right now, are educated guesses.

"They tend to go up and down throughout the year," Sheridan said.

The funding is considered "consolidated grants." They're non-competitive and the funding has already been set aside for each school district, but the district does have to apply for it.

"It's quite a bit of work," Sheridan said. "We have to follow certain procedures."

The paperwork includes setting program goals and evaluations.

Despite the cuts, Villard is confident in the services the school district will be able to provide.

"Moffat County's a good school district," she said. "It's done an excellent job over the years of keeping the important things manageable. We have a lot of good allocations of resources."

She said she doesn't expect student services to be affected by the cuts.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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