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Districts get the word on Edujobs grants

Colorado school districts and charter schools received good news Wednesday about federal grants that will help ease budget cuts for districts and provide funding for new charter schools.

The Colorado Department of Education this week notified school districts of the amounts each likely will receive under the new federal Edujobs program, which is designed to reduce the loss of jobs caused by budget cuts.

Most districts are expected to receive grants equal to 2.9 percent of their total program funding, which is the amount of state and local revenue that’s devoted to school operating costs.

Most districts experienced total program cuts ranging from 3.6 to 6.3 percent for 2010-11.

Officials also announced that the state has been awarded a $40.8 million, three-year federal grant to help charter and other choice schools with start-up costs.

Edujobs by the numbers

In a letter to superintendents and chief financial officers around the state, Assistant Commissioner Vody Herrmann wrote that the governor’s office now believes Colorado is eligible for Edujobs — there had been some uncertainty about that last week. She wrote that the state will apply for the program and that funds will be distributed through the state school finance formula.

States have the option of distributing the dollars through their finance formulas, generally a per-pupil allocation, or their Title 1 federal grant dispersal method, which is based on the number of students in poverty. So news that Colorado will use the finance formula was particularly welcome in districts such as Douglas County, which has a relatively low poverty rate but which also reported among the highest number of school positions cut in 2010-11.

Distribution of funds through the school finance formula, which is based on enrollment, district property values, number of at-risk students and other factors, also will mean districts will receive funds regardless of whether they cut their budgets this year through layoffs, attrition, furloughs or other means.

Here are the tentative allocations for the state’s 25 largest districts:

  • Jefferson County – $15.7 million
  • Denver – $15.4 million
  • Douglas County – $11 million
  • Cherry Creek – $9.7 million
  • Adams 12 Five Star – $7.7 million
  • Aurora – $7.2 million
  • Colorado Springs 11 – $5.5 million
  • Boulder Valley – $5.4 million
  • St. Vrain – $5 million
  • Poudre – $4.7 million
  • Academy 20 $4.1 million
  • Mesa – $4 million
  • Greeley – $3.5 million
  • Pueblo City – $3.3 million
  • Littleton – $2.8 million
  • Thompson – $2.7 million
  • Brighton – $2.7 million
  • Falcon – $2.7 million
  • Harrison – $2.1 million
  • Westminster – $1.9 million
  • Pueblo County – $1.6 million
  • Widefield – $1.5 million
  • Adams 14 – $1.5 million
  • Fountain – $1.3 million
  • Montrose – $1.2 million
  • Charter School Institute – $1.2 million

(A full list of districts is available here.)

The federal government made state-by-state allocations based on overall population and population aged 5-24. Colorado’s allocation is $159.5 million, of which CDE can retain $3.2 million (2 percent) for administrative costs. (The figures listed above are based on total grants of $156.3 million, after CDE administrative costs.)

The grants are intended for use in the current, 2010-11 school year but districts actually have until Sept. 30, 2012, to use any unspent funds. (The New York Times reported Wednesday that some large school districts around the nation aren’t inclined to use the money right away because of fears about continuing budget cuts beyond this school year.) Districts can draw no more than half their Edujobs grants by the end of this year.

The money is to be used for personnel costs, not to replenish reserves or for facilities.

Charter grants

The $40.8 million charter grant awarded to Colorado was part of awards to 12 states totaling $138 million a year.

“Ninety-five percent of these funds will go directly to new charter schools in their first three years of operation,” said Denise Mund, director of CDE’s Schools of Choice Office. “The grants will fund curriculum, professional development, administrative costs, desks and classroom supplies, office equipment, furniture and technology.”

The remaining 5 percent of the funds will be used for administrative costs and for the development and training of charter school leaders.

Since 1998, Colorado has received about $64.8 million under the program, which is separate from the education stimulus effort.

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