Schools ponder use of stimulus funds

By Harold Gwin

YOUNGSTOWN — Academic enrichment in the city schools will be the primary target of federal economic stimulus money expected to arrive within 45 days.

Superintendent Wendy Webb said the Title 1 funds — expected to be about $3.5 million for Youngstown — can be best used to enrich existing academic programs through such things as field trips, one-on-one tutoring and additional educational materials.

“We have to be real careful how we use it,” Webb said Tuesday night, noting that the stimulus money is a one-time benefit to school districts.

Youngstown, which is working to recover from state-declared fiscal emergency, has to be careful not to create new programs that will have ongoing costs beyond the two-year stimulus package window, she said.

The district is scheduled to receive more than $7 million in Title 1 stimulus money, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The district is already receiving $6.6 million annually in regular Title 1 funding.

About half of the stimulus money — $3.5 million — will come now; the rest will be delivered over the next two years.

Title 1 targets programs for economically disadvantaged children.

School districts are also expected to get Individuals with Disabilities Education Act stimulus funds, although the U.S. Department of Education has yet to announce how much each will receive.

Webb said Youngstown is working on a strategic plan to guide the district academically over the next few years, and the Title 1 stimulus funds will be a part of that plan.

“I think we can use the money to the advantage of our students,” she said, despite the two-year funding limit. The stimulus funds can help the district “spring forward” with efforts to build the graduation rate, improve test scores and more, she said.

Giving kids one-on-one instructional assistance will be a big help, especially when it can benefit children who don’t catch on as quickly as others, Webb said.

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