Gov. Bill Richardson and Education Secretary Veronica García unveiled their plan to begin doling out New Mexico's $481 million in stimulus funds for education. The Public Education Department made about half of that money available Monday.
"The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a historic opportunity to drive real change in our public schools," García said in a statement. "School districts and charter schools from every corner of New Mexico will now have a chance to save and create jobs, and provide extra help to students in an effort to improve academic performance."
The money is broken down into three funds: one for stabilization, one for Individuals with Disabilities Act improvements and one for Title I programs. Title I programs aid the economically disadvantaged, while IDEA funds target special education.
Monday's announcement details exactly how much funding each school district is getting for the IDEA and Title I sectors. How the $164.7 million set aside for stabilization will be disbursed is less clear, as that money will go through the public school funding formula.
The complicated formula takes into account enrollment and a plethora of other factors to determine each district's funding. Any stabilization dollars received go directly into a district's general fund.
Of the $87.2 million in IDEA and Title I funds made available Monday, the Central Consolidated School District and Farmington Municipal Schools are the biggest local winners. They're both receiving about $2.1 million.
The Bloomfield School District is getting $604,000, while Aztec Municipal Schools is getting $533,500. These numbers do not include additional money coming through the stabilization fund.
A second wave of stimulus dollars, effectively doubling the money dispensed Monday, is coming next year.
Along with the announcement, the Public Education Department provided recommendations for how to spend the money. IDEA funds can be used to hire support staff, to hire job coaches for at-risk high school students and for professional development and training for special education teachers.
Title I money can go toward expanding after-school programs, hiring reading specialists and professional development for teachers working in economically disadvantaged schools.
Aztec Municipal Schools, for example, plans to use most of its stimulus dollars to cover the cost of teacher training days.
"We're going to be using the bulk of that money for professional development for our staff," Aztec Superintendent Linda Paul said.
Using the money to pay for teacher work days allows Aztec Municipal Schools to keep 181 student instructional days, while some districts are decreasing their instructional days to 180.
One of the main goals of the stimulus is to create jobs, and the Public Education Department's recommendations for spending highlight that focus. Some educators are wary of adding too many positions, creating a quagmire when the stimulus money dries up in 2010.
"I think you'd have to be cautious in the fact that when the stimulus money goes away, the jobs go away also," Bloomfield Superintendent Randy Allison said.
But the stimulus dollars are more than welcome.
"They are helpful," Allison said.
G. Jeff Golden: firstname.lastname@example.org