March 4, 2010

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MATTHEW STONE

— By

Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — As lawmakers look to pare the state's education budget, they risk compounding an already steep cut to school spending.

If they cut too deep, Maine will stand to lose certain federal funds, Education Commissioner Susan Gendron told a legislative panel Tuesday.

Lawmakers are looking to cut the state's education budget by at least $38.1 million this fiscal year. Depending on how legislators and local school officials make the cuts, the impact could be great.

''One of the challenges is that, because we are at bare bones, I start to jeopardize federal programs if I continue to cut,'' Gendron told the Legislature's Education Committee.

The federal money that could be at risk includes funds for special education, school lunches, and the millions of dollars that schools have yet to receive from the $787 billion economic stimulus package.

''If the state doesn't maintain its effort, we lose federal money,'' said Michael Cormier, superintendent of the Farmington-based Mount Blue Regional School District. ''Local districts could lose money if we don't maintain our effort at the local level.''

The federal government won't award stimulus funds to states, for example, unless they are funding schools at least at 2005-06 levels.

With special education money, school districts have to assume part of the cost. And if the Maine Department of Education decides to cut back on school lunch spending, Gendron said, ''the federal government will send us less federal dollars if we don't meet our match.''

With a $38.1 million cut this school year, Maine's education spending would be $909 million -- $73 million above the required 2005-06 level.

''There is a little wiggle room,'' Gendron told lawmakers.

But in 2010-11, state expenditures would fall to $851 million, within $15 million of the minimum spending level, if current budget projections hold.

A loss of some federal special-education funds could force Cormier's nine-town district to scramble to cover the cost, he said.

''You'd still be required to supply those (services), and I would assume you'd have to take money out of regular education to meet those needs,'' said Cormier, chairman of the Maine Superintendents Association's funding committee.

Statewide, Cormier said, the effect of jeopardized federal funds would be ''millions and millions of dollars.''By

Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — As lawmakers look to pare the state's education budget, they risk compounding an already steep cut to school spending.

If they cut too deep, Maine will stand to lose certain federal funds, Education Commissioner Susan Gendron told a legislative panel Tuesday.

Lawmakers are looking to cut the state's education budget by at least $38.1 million this fiscal year. Depending on how legislators and local school officials make the cuts, the impact could be great.

''One of the challenges is that, because we are at bare bones, I start to jeopardize federal programs if I continue to cut,'' Gendron told the Legislature's Education Committee.

The federal money that could be at risk includes funds for special education, school lunches, and the millions of dollars that schools have yet to receive from the $787 billion economic stimulus package.

''If the state doesn't maintain its effort, we lose federal money,'' said Michael Cormier, superintendent of the Farmington-based Mount Blue Regional School District. ''Local districts could lose money if we don't maintain our effort at the local level.''

The federal government won't award stimulus funds to states, for example, unless they are funding schools at least at 2005-06 levels.

With special education money, school districts have to assume part of the cost. And if the Maine Department of Education decides to cut back on school lunch spending, Gendron said, ''the federal government will send us less federal dollars if we don't meet our match.''

With a $38.1 million cut this school year, Maine's education spending would be $909 million -- $73 million above the required 2005-06 level.

''There is a little wiggle room,'' Gendron told lawmakers.

But in 2010-11, state expenditures would fall to $851 million, within $15 million of the minimum spending level, if current budget projections hold.

A loss of some federal special-education funds could force Cormier's nine-town district to scramble to cover the cost, he said.

''You'd still be required to supply those (services), and I would assume you'd have to take money out of regular education to meet those needs,'' said Cormier, chairman of the Maine Superintendents Association's funding committee.

Statewide, Cormier said, the effect of jeopardized federal funds would be ''millions and millions of dollars.''

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