Fed stimulus plan includes aid for local schools

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The economic stimulus plan under consideration in Congress includes a significant amount of aid for East End schools.

The $825 billion package of tax cuts and aid includes a total of $44.4 million for schools in the 1st Congressional District over the next two years.

The money was calculated using a formula based on need and the number of students in the area’s school districts, according to William Jenkins, an aide to U.S. Representative Tim Bishop. It was not based on any projects underway at schools here, he said.

Both the House and Senate versions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contain the same amount of money for school districts, Mr. Jenkins said. He added that, if the amounts are reduced in a final bill, which lawmakers are hoping to pass by mid-February, it will be in proportion to other schools throughout the country.

Mr. Jenkins said that there is broad support in Congress for the school-aid portion of the bill, which, nationwide, amounts to more than $40 billion of the recovery plan, including improvements to colleges.

Every South Fork school district would receive some of the federal money, to use for assistance to low-income students and students with disabilities, for repairing and modernizing school buildings, and for creating technologically updated and energy efficient classrooms. Lawmakers are also hoping that the improvements will generate jobs for construction workers who otherwise might not be working due to the economic downturn.

The money also can be used to retain teachers who might otherwise have been cut from schools’ staffs due to dwindling state aid.

The East Hampton, Southampton and Riverhead school districts, three of the largest on the East End, would receive more money than smaller local schools. East Hampton is slated to receive $359,000 this year and $565,400 in 2010. Southampton would receive $404,100 this year and $654,100 next year. Riverhead, which is a central school district with many individual schools, would receive $2,031,400 this year and $2,955,400 in 2010.

The tiny Wainscott School, which has 18 students this year, would receive $10,400 this year and $12,000 next year, while mid-sized Sag Harbor would receive $124,300 this year and $238,900 next year.

“This funding will provide a double benefit for Long Island: First it will ensure that our students are learning in the best schools possible, and second it will both protect and produce much-needed jobs on the island,” said Mr. Bishop last week. “Improving the quality of education is one of the best ways to drive long-term growth and competitiveness. Together, with President Obama, we are moving quickly to build a 21st century economy and strengthen our nation’s middle class.”

Mr. Bishop, who is a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, said that the bill includes aid to help students and families pay for college, job training and support programs, and an extension of unemployment.

For a full list of the local aid in the current version of the bill, go to 27east.com.

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