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updated: 1/14/2011 4:32 PM

$3 million in federal jobs cash put to use in District 116

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  • Constance Collins

      Constance Collins


Round Lake Area Unit District 116 is tapping into roughly $3 million in federal stimulus money to pay the salaries of educators that typically would come from the school system's locally funded budget.

District 116 Superintendent Constance Collins said the Education Jobs Fund money is accomplishing goals as intended by the federal government. At least 14 teacher assistants have regained jobs because of the money.

"It's big," Collins said of the $3 million allocation for the district that experienced deep cuts before the school year. "It's money we were not expecting and it is money to help us get the work done."

In Lake County, District 116 is second only to Waukegan Unit District 60 in the amount of Education Jobs Fund cash it may use. Waukegan was allotted $6.1 million from the stimulus program.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced in late August that Illinois would receive $415.4 million from federal taxpayers for school districts across the state. He said there was a sense of urgency to ship the cash to save jobs.

Stimulus allocations may be used for compensation and benefits and other expenses necessary to retain existing employees or rehire workers, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. Salaries, performance bonuses, health insurance or early retirement incentives are allowed expenditures.

Records show District 116 will direct $733,246 of the $3 million toward paying eight instructors who specialize in teaching students who are struggling academically. Collins said those teachers also will work with classroom personnel.

District 116 also can commit to having a summer school program this year and in 2012, Collins said. She said $97,761 in stimulus funds will pay 17 teachers for the summer programming over the two years.

Other District 116 expenses that'll be covered with the Education Jobs Fund program include two rehired custodians, a school improvement coordinator, summer coaching stipends and a nurse.

Collins said the $3 million from the federal stimulus program is covering some costs without spending from the locally funded District 116 budget. She said the district, which made $3.89 million in budget cuts for this school year, can spend the stimulus money through September 2012.

District 116 was near collapse because of poor finances when a special state finance authority took over in 2002. Collins was hired as superintendent before the 2010-11 school year as part of a return to local control after finances were deemed stable.

Several other school districts in Lake County also received the stimulus money.

For example, officials at Hawthorn Elementary District 73 in Vernon Hills said $151,584 in Education Jobs Fund money will go toward hiring a part-time coordinator of special services.

Mundelein Elementary District 75 received $183,273 from the stimulus program last month that covered classroom staff salaries for work performed in November, according to Superintendent Cynthia Heidorn. The federal cash was used in lieu of budgeted funds generated from District 75 taxpayers.

Grayslake Elementary District 46 received $733,028 from the federal stimulus pool, but drew criticism from some residents on how it used $435,000 of the allotment.

In November, a $1,100 bonus was awarded to each of 345 teachers at District 46 except for those who have officially declared they are retiring and getting 6 percent raises in their final three years to boost pensions. There also were $5,500 in bonuses for 10 school building administrators.

Daily Herald staff writer Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.

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