Stimulus money to help Wake schools

Staff WriterAugust 19, 2009 

Federal stimulus money will help ease Wake County’s financial pain this year and next but is only a temporary solution to dealing with budget cuts in education, county officials said Wednesday.

Donna Hargens, Wake’s chief academic officer, said that a total of 199 jobs had been maintained or created with the use of stimulus money. Of that amount, 100 positions in special needs education — 92 teachers and eight teachers’ assistants—were saved. In addition, 99 new positions have been created: 53 teaching positions and 45 jobs for math coaches at Title I elementary schools, schools with high levels of free or reduced lunch. One administrative position was also created to manage the math coach program.

Forty-two of the 45 math coach positions have been filled.

Close to 1,500 Wake County Public School System employees’ contracts expired June 30, and 911 of them have been rehired. Hargens said that some of the 100 jobs maintained with stimulus money went to people among that group of 911, but the 99 new positions are separate from that total.

Wake County received a total of $46.4 million in stimulus funds to be spent on eduation. That amount is divided into around $30 million set aside for special needs education and $16 million designated for 45 Title I schools. The money will flow in this year and in 2010, but ceases at that point.

Hargens said that about half of the $46.4 million total is already accounted for with the new positions and the saved jobs. That expense, which amounts to close to $20 million, is spread over two years.

Stimulus funding became particularly important to the Wake school system when the state budget, passed nearly two weeks ago, cut more than $35.1 million from the county’s education budget. David Neter, Wake’s chief business officer, warned that the state needs to find additional sources of revenue so the school system is not left with a massive hole in its budget when stimulus money runs out.

“The problem with [federal funding] is that it falls off a cliff in two years,” he said.

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