July 13, 2008

Some Education Grants Cut: Despite Trims, School Districts Will Get an Increase in Basic Education Funding.

By Nichole Dobo, York Daily Record, Pa.

Jul. 13--At Dallastown Area School District, there were hopes of adding eight additional classrooms filled with new technology.

That might have to wait.

The state's finalized education budget cut the Classrooms for the Future grants back about 50 percent, to $45 million.

That means the application process for the grant will be more competitive this year, with money likely going to poorer school districts. That makes it unlikely that schools like Dallastown will get approved for the technology grant this year.

"It's a little bit of a disappointment," said Supt. Stewart Weinberg.

Including the technology grants, funding levels for 17 grant programs were cut from last year in the state's final education budget.

School districts have already applied for grants, which are under review at the state Department of Education, said Leah Harris, a department spokeswoman.

Now that it's known how much money is available, the review process will whittle down who will get the money based on need and the ability of the district to implement the plan it submitted, she said.

Last year, 11 York County school districts and the York County School of Technology received money from the state technology grants for programs such as laptops in the classroom and "smart" chalkboards.

Other grant programs cut by more than 50 percent for the 2008-09 school year include urban and minority teacher development and education mentoring.

The York City School District might have to

re-evaluate spending if it doesn't get all the grants it anticipates, said Tom Foust, the board vice president.

York City got nearly 16 percent more in basic education funding -- one of the largest increases in the state. That money will be used to hire more teachers and expand programs.

All school districts got at least a 3 percent increase in basic education funding -- which makes up the majority of money sent to schools by the state.

"We are glad we are able to increase our education budget at all," Harris said. "In other states they had to cut education budgets."

Most grants are not money that districts can always count on, although many districts rely on the money to fund programs such as early childhood education and teacher development. Each year, school districts submit grant applications to the state Department of Education to obtain these funds.

The grants for the 2008-09 school year are scheduled to be announced in August, Harris said.

This was slated to be the last year for what was proposed to be a three-year, $200 million program for Classrooms for the Future grants. It's possible the grants will continue next year, Harris said.

"We hope to pursue this next year," she said.

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