Federal funds important to school district

Moffat County School District officials wouldn't even think of turning their back on $416,000 in federal funding that helps some of the neediest populations in the district.

The level of accountability that accompanies those dollars can be daunting -- so much so that several Colorado school districts have considered turning them down.

Not so here.

Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan works with Christine Villard, director of student services, to make sure all dollars are accounted for.

"It's a sizeable amount of money and worth the hassle," he said.

Federal dollars pay for what are referred to as "Title" programs.

There are five including reading and math; teacher and principal quality and technology; English language learners; safe and drug free schools; and innovative programs.

The bulk of the funding is for Title I reading and math services.

The $267,448 covers salaries, staff development and a summer reading lab.

The amount of the allocation is based on the percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. In Moffat County, that's 24 percent.

The district is required to use a portion of those funds this year to implement a school improvement plan at Craig Intermediate School because it didn't meet progress goals in two special-needs populations.

A majority of the $111,800 in the Title II funds the district receive for teacher and principal quality is used for salaries and stipends for teacher leaders. The remaining $13,044 is used for staff development, though the district does contribute additional dollars from its general fund.

"None of this indicates the amount of money we spend on these programs," Sheridan said.

The $13,076 the district receives for services to English-language learners doesn't go far toward providing service to the more than 50 ELL students enrolled.

The district will spend more than $126,000 this year to provide the program.

Other federal funds are used to offset the salary of a school resource officer and to provide summer math labs and a few technology upgrades.

To get the funds, the school district has to write a proposal stating how the funds will be used. At the end of the year officials must file a report on how they were used.

Federal dollars can only be used to create new programs or improve services. They can't be put toward the cost of providing existing programs or services "even if they fit with the goals of that money," Sheridan said.

Preliminary figures put the district down $2,513 over what it received last year in title funds -- and that can change.

"The allocation changes two or three times over the year depending on current politics," Sheridan said.

School districts must comply with the provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act in order to receive federal dollars. Some school districts, tired of carrying that yoke, have considered saying "no."

Moffat County isn't one of them.

"It doesn't make sense to us," Sheridan said.

NCLBA requires districts to measure and increase student progress -- something Sheridan said the district would do without the mandate.

"I can't imagine anybody not doing it," he said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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