Schools Will Get Stimulus Funds, State Payments

April 15, 2009

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Illinois is expecting about $3 billion in federal stimulus aid to schools in the state. But a big chunk of that is going to pay off a backlog of bills the state owes school districts.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says the unprecedented injection of federal dollars into schools will help districts avoid making painful cuts.

DUNCAN: This money will save literally hundreds of thousands of teaching jobs.

Duncan also wants stimulus funds to promote education reforms. He wants districts to consider everything from performance pay for teachers to a longer school day to language programs like the one at Andrew Jackson Language Academy in Chicago.

GIRL: Bonjour, messieurs.

In five different languages, students at the school welcomed Duncan and Governor Pat Quinn yesterday. Officials touted this program as an example of what stimulus funds could buy.

But in Illinois, a lot of stimulus money will be spent on services already rendered: The state owes $1 billion to school districts.

CHAPIN: Some of the bills date back to December of 2008.

In West Aurora School District 129, the story is the same as in most districts. Spokesman Mike Chapin says the state owes the district $5.7 million.

CHAPIN: It's for programs the state is obligated to pay for, like special education, early childhood, class size reduction, state lunch program, transportation.

Stimulus funds will finally pay off those bills, and will cover general state aid payments to districts for the remainder of the school year.
 
There will be new money for districts. One billion dollars will help schools educate low-income and special education students.

And the governor wants to boost state education funding by $130 per student next year, paid for with the federal stimulus dollars.

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