Details of Stimulus Plan for Arkansas Schools Released

Fri April 17, 2009 - Southeast Edition
CEG




LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) Nearly $570 million is available for Arkansas schools over the next six months through the federal stimulus plan, the state Education Department announced April 10.

Education Commissioner Ken James told more than 1,000 school employees that the federal government will be watching the states closely to see how the money is spent.

“While one of the main goals of the stimulus funds as a whole is to create and save jobs, the education portion [of the stimulus funding] has an equally important goal of improving student achievement,’’ James said.

President Barack Obama’s first order of business when he took office in January was passage of his economic stimulus bill, which provides an unprecedented amount of money for schools — double the education budget under President George W. Bush — over the next two years.

Arkansas also has been allocated a total of $351.5 million from the stimulus package for highway projects. The Highway Department has identified 104 projects to fund with that money, including repaving lanes, fixing off-ramps and addressing other needs.

James said that the state Education Department will release estimates soon on how much each district is expected to receive.

Of the federal funding, more than $111 million is set aside for schools to improve academic performance and narrowing the achievement gap. About $117 million is available to provide special education and services to students with disabilities.

The remaining money — $341.1 million — can be used for a variety of purposes, including the construction and renovation of school facilities. The department said the districts should look for projects that will help student performance, such as updating science laboratories or creating new media centers.

“This section of the law provides an opportunity for leaders to think of creative and innovative ways to change their facilities in such a way that it will lead to academic achievement for all students,’’ James said.