Federal jobs dollars to bolster school district staff

With the recent passage of the Federal Education Jobs Act bill, the Sheboygan Falls School District is poised to receive approximately $395,00 in federal aid.

SFSD is one of school districts sharing in approximately $10 billion in new federal aid, which will be distributed to school districts across the country in the next two years.

The purpose of the Education Jobs Act is to help schools retain or hire back people, who work directly with students, such as teachers and aides.

Districts have the option of spending the money this school year or next.

As a school district that regularly spends below the state average, Sheboygan Falls has been making consistent staff and budget reductions on a yearly basis, since the state of Wisconsin imposed revenue limits on all school districts in 1993.

Using Education Jobs Act funds to restore critical positions will help reduce large class sizes, provide increased support to students and ease the financial pressure on taxpayers.

The SFSD recently released the following facts about how the Federal Education Jobs Act bill will impact staffing decision in the next few years.

• The $395,000 federal aid total is less than 2 percent of the district’s yearly budget.

As of this point, the district has committed $123,000 of the $395,000 Federal Jobs Funds for 2010-2011 and $65,000 for 2011-2012.

Since the money and the details of it came in so late, most of the money will be set aside for 2011-2012 and allocated as needed at that time.

• No school districts appear to be rejecting the money at this time. A number of school districts are choosing to not spend any of the money this school year, saving it all for next year.

The SFSD has taken a middle-of-the-road, conservative approach for using the money.

• Because the SFSD has been closely monitoring class sizes and making reductions over the years, only one teacher was laid off this past spring.

The district had originally decided to call back the teacher, using Federal Education Jobs funds. However, the teacher has found another position and declined to return.

After looking closely at student numbers in the elementary school, the School Board decided the district could get by this year, and decided to not add any teaching staff in the elementary school.

• The SFSD increase a part-time English teacher at the high school, from 60 percent to 100 percent.

The move has provided for a reduction in class size in some English classes, where student enrollment was approaching 30 per class.

The district believes students will benefit from the increased individual attention from the teacher. The cost of this increase is $24,000.

• The district also increased the contract of the high school business education teacher from 60 percent to 70 percent.

This allowed the high school to add an extra section in another class, where increased enrollment resulted in more students than desks in the room. The cost of this move is $4,000.

• The SFSD also needed to deal with large class sizes at the middle school. To reduce overcrowding issues in the fifth-grade related studies class, another section was added.

To deal with class sizes approaching 30 per class in eighth-grade social studies, another section was added.

No new staff members were hired, but additional time was added to some teachers’ contracts, which will be covered by about $20,000 from the federal funds.

• At the elementary school, the School Board decided to restore a library aide from 50 percent back to full-time at a cost of $10,000.

This will enable the students to get more help in using the library and checking out books.

• In spring 2007, the school district decided to not replace an elementary school guidance counselor, who was retiring. This meant that two counselors would do the work of three in the elementary and middle schools.

Since that time, a 4-year-old kindergarten program has been added, student enrollments have increase in some grades and there has been an increased need for counseling services to students and parents in recent years.

As a result, the district is restoring an elementary counseling position this fall at a cost of $65,000. Federal funds will be used to cover the cost of the position.

For more information on how Sheboygan Falls is allocating the Federal Education Job Act funds, visit the SFSD’s Web site at www.sheboyganfalls.k12.wi.us

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