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Update on Federal Recovery Package - March 10, 2009

INFORMATIONAL LETTER: 74
POLICY CODE: DBE

TO: Superintendents of Schools
FROM: Susan A. Gendron
DATE: March 10, 2009
SUBJECT: Update on Federal Recovery Package

I have scheduled the following three events to share information about education funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA):

  • Thursday, March 12, at 11 a.m. – Brief conference call for superintendents so I can update you on guidance from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and my meetings with USDE staff and Secretary Arne Duncan, as well as a briefing from President Obama.
  • Monday, March 16, from 9:00 a.m. to noon, Florian Hall, Commerce Center, Augusta – Drive-in conference for superintendents (directions below)
  • Tuesday, March 17, 2009 at 1 p.m. – Follow-up conference call for superintendents for those unable to attend the drive-in, or who have follow-up questions. Call-in information is the same as for Thursday, March 12, above.

We will also post a podcast from the Monday drive-in conference on our recovery website: www.maine.gov/education/recovery . We will post it by the close of business that day.

You may also be interested to listen in as I brief the Legislature’s Education Committee tomorrow, Wednesday, March 11, at 10 a.m., on what I learned in Washington, D.C., as well as on the Governor’s proposed revisions (the "change package”) to the biennial budget (FY10-11) currently under consideration by the Legislature. I do not know which will come first – the budget or the recovery briefing. You can listen in at: http://www.maine.gov/legis/audio/education_cmte.html .

Update on USDE Guidance and Timing of Release of Funds

On Friday evening, the U.S. Department of Education released some initial guidance on the use of ARRA education funds and the timing of the release of funds. There are still unanswered questions around the use of the funds. We have been in meetings in Washington, D.C. all weekend and yesterday and today. At these meetings we have been asking for clarification. In some cases we have received answers immediately; in others, we will have to wait for further guidelines which will be issued later this month.

There is good news around the timing of the release of funds. Money will be available to states for Title I and IDEA by the end of March, which means SAUs should have access to those funds in April.

For the State Fiscal Stabilization Funds, from which we will be able to restore the $27.8 million in reductions that were made to the current fiscal year state subsidies, we must first wait for a streamlined application/process that will be available to us by March 31. Then we will work quickly to complete and submit the application to USDE, which promises to turn around applications within two weeks. That means we could have these stabilization funds in state by mid- to late-April and will move to distribute them to SAUs immediately upon their arrival.

It is important to keep in mind that these funds come with restrictions, some of which have been made clear and some of which are yet to come, and that there will be strict reporting requirements for states and local education agencies. I strongly advise caution in making final decisions about the use of anticipated funds before all the guidance and reporting requirements are available. In addition, Governor Baldacci has echoed President Obama’s call for transparency in the reporting on the use of these funds, including use of a website so that all citizens may see how they are used. Clearly these funds are a great boon to our efforts in education. We will need to be very aware of how we use them and be able to show that we are using them wisely and in ways that will produce improvements in student achievement.

I can tell you that our meetings with the USDE continue to be fruitful, and there is a continued spirit of cooperation and collaboration with the states.

We have added a link to the USDE guidance at our state website on the recovery act, www.maine.gov/education/recovery , and we continue to update the site with reliable information as we receive it.

Directions to Florian Hall in the Commerce Center

FROM POINTS SOUTH: Take Interstate 95 North to Exit 112 B. Proceed North on Civic Center Drive (Routes 11, 27 and 8) for approximately 1 miles. Just after the DHHS building, turn left at Commerce Drive/Central Maine Commerce Center.

FROM POINTS NORTH: Take Interstate 95 South to Exit 112. Turn right off the ramp. Proceed North on Civic Center Drive (Routes 11, 27 and 8) for approximately 1 miles. Just after the DHHS building, turn left at Commerce Drive/Central Maine Commerce Center.

For Florian Hall

Park in front of the building and enter the door marked Public Safety. Florian Hall is ahead on your left.