Another $653,000 in stimulus dollars headed for Metro schools

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 3:50pm

More federal stimulus dollars are headed for Metro schools. This round will target technology, according to the Tennessee Department of Education.

Nashville’s public school district can access more than $653,000 to better integrate technology in classrooms. The funds are intended to promote learning through technology, and to minimize the “digital divide” that contributes to varying levels of technological literacy among kids of different backgrounds.

“More technology in the classroom is something our teachers and administrators are always pushing for and it’s exciting to know that we now have additional dollars to help them achieve that goal,” said DOE Commissioner Tim Webb in a press release.

Individual school districts must apply for the funds, which will be made available starting July 1.

Metro Nashville Public Schools has one of the highest allocations among districts statewide, following only Memphis City school district’s $1.4 million allocation. Almost $6 million, total, is allocated through this program for Tennessee districts this year.

The technology grants add to a growing amount of stimulus dollars Metro is expected to receive. MNPS stands to be allocated a total of $24.6 million in federal stimulus Title I dollars to be used specifically for students and schools meeting federal low-income guidelines, and more than $20 million in stimulus dollars Metro will receive through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which can be used only on services for students covered by the act.

MNPS will have a longer wait for Title I funds than most other Tennessee districts, due to years of being out of compliance with federal programs spending. Federal Title I dollars intended for Metro have been frozen since December due to non-compliant spending on the part of MNPS. Most money that will reach schools through the federal stimulus package will flow through Title I, and until Metro resolves its federal spending troubles, Title I stimulus money will be frozen along with the rest.

Though stimulus funds stand to help the district, there’s only so much the money can do to ease pressure on the district’s operating budget. Any stimulus dollars the district uses to fund recurring expenses will have to be replaced with local dollars after the two-year stimulus program is complete.

District officials have acknowledged the growing likelihood that $15 million in budget cuts for the next year – which includes the elimination of a net total of 209 school district staff positions – will have to take place. Board members are aiming to vote on the budget at a meeting at 1 p.m., Friday, April 24, at the district’s central office, 2601 Bransford Ave.