Budget Hopes

As more details emerge about the specifics of Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget proposal, there might be some items that could benefit the Warren County School District.

While he said “a lot of things are nebulous,” WCSD Superintendent Dr. William Clark cited two specific grant opportunities that could enhance district programming during Monday evening’s school board meeting.

Clark highlighted the Ready to Learn Block Grant, which he said could be utilized to fund an after-school program.

The budget proposal provides $341 million in total funding, including $241 million in new Ready to Learn funding for public schools that focus on student achievement and academic success, according to the state Department of Education.

“A total of $240 million of the Ready to Learn Block Grant funds will be allocated through a student-focused funding formula to enhance learning opportunities for students and provide resources for schools to innovate at the local level,” Clark said.

“If it’s a competitive process, it will be interesting (to see) what we’ll get,” he said, acknowledging that the budget proposal does “throw money around” in an election year.

Clark expressed a concern that the money could be available this year, during the election cycle, but disappear in future years.

The other item that he highlighted was Hybrid Learning Grants.

According to the Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning Initiative, hybrid learning “is the integration of digital content with traditional teaching in the school building. Hybrid learning enables teachers to provide more individualized instruction, empowers parents and students with additional curriculum choices, and creates a better learning environment at school, especially in times of shrinking budgets.”

Clark said he was involved in a pilot program in this area while employed at a previous school district. He said the district will be looking at hybrid learning opportunities through the development of a technology plan in the coming months.

“There I can say my excitement kind of ends,” he added. The state is “saying we’re getting a lot of extra money. (There) will be a lot of haggling in Harrisburg… That’s anticipated money. It’s not 100 percent we’re going to get those funds.”

PDE has estimated approximately $816,000 additional dollars coming to the district in the governor’s proposal.

He explained that as the numbers are clarified, he will be contacting local legislators advocating on the district’s behalf. He suggested the board reach out in that arena as well.

Clark said he would be specifically asking about the parameters for the two grants and noted that work has already commenced with the district’s grant writer, Matt Jones.

Clark said that his goal is to “position ourselves in such a way (that we can) see what would work for us. What has been successful. What type of in-kind match is required.”