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Thousands in stimulus funds on the way for midstate schools

Millions of dollars will be flowing into Middle Georgia school systems in the coming weeks after the state school board’s approval Tuesday of about $670 million in federal stimulus money.

The money can be spent on students with disabilities as well as Title I schools. Those are schools at which 40 percent or more students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.

Once school districts submit their particular budgets, they can begin spending the first half of the stimulus money, with the remaining funds available this fall, according to the state Department of Education.

Bibb County, which has about 24,500 students, is scheduled to get a total of about $18 million.

About 30 Title I schools will benefit from $12.4 million in stimulus money, and the system’s estimated 1,300 students with disabilities will get help from a $5.37 million outlay. Another $178,900 will be allotted to preschool students with disabilities, said Chris Floore, the system’s spokesman.

“The budget has not been submitted yet,” he said. “We didn’t know the final numbers” until Tuesday.

Bibb school administrators are now considering a number of ideas on how to spend the stimulus money — and sustaining programs after the two-year funding expires.

Superintendent Sharon Patterson has said the funds could help with teacher training, lowering student class sizes and a Response to Intervention Program that uses data to diagnose low-income students with learning disabilities at an earlier age.

The Houston County school system is set to receive $8.4 million for its Title I and special-needs students and another $160,949 for preschool students with disabilities, according to the state.

“At this point and time our intent is to use funds for the 2010 and 2011 fiscal school years,” said Stephen Thublin, the system’s assistant superintendent of finance and business operations.

Houston had cut $12 million from its spending plan because of state budget cuts, including a Reading Recovery program that gave struggling readers one-on-one attention with a reading specialist.

Now, using stimulus money, the system will start a similar program in its low-income schools, as well as creating smaller class sizes, he said.

The Peach County school district is set to get $1.8 million in stimulus money. In Monroe County, Assistant Superintendent Jackson Daniel said the system is in the process of submitting its budget and expects its funds within the next two to four weeks.

Monroe County is set to receive $792,838 for students with disabilities, with the first half, nearly $400,000, coming soon.

Half of the system’s total of $350,000 for low-income students should also be on the way by the end of May.

“It’s going to help with some things in some places where we were considering squeezing,” Daniel said.

For instance, the system will use Title I money to start a program in both of its middle schools to engage students with potential but who don’t fit the traditional criteria for gifted students.

Georgia’s schools will receive $351 million in Title I funds and $314 million for students with disabilities.

In addition, the stimulus money also is expected to provide Georgia schools with other funding, including:

Ÿ About $900 million that the governor can use for K-12 education.

Ÿ More than $22 million in education technology state grants.

Ÿ More than $10 million in IDEA grants for preschool students.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.

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