The Warren County School District now knows how much it will receive from the state Accountability Block Grant (ABG) that was saved in the 2012-2013 Pennsylvania budget and will be used to pay the expenses for teachers in the district's full day kindergarten program.
The entire grant was set to be cut under the original proposal submitted by Governor Tom Corbett but was re-established by the General Assembly.
The number was revealed during Monday's meeting of the Curriculum, Instruction and Technology board of directors committee meeting held at the Warren County Career Center.
"The ABG is something that we're very familiar with," District Director of Secondary Education Amanda Hetrick said. "(We are) recommending at this point that we use it to fund the kindergarten teachers as we have in previous years." Hetrick explained that there are other things that could be done with the funding but "to make it budget neutral," funding kindergarten teachers is its best use.
Board Vice-president Donna Zariczny asked administration what the money would have been used for if the state said it could not be used for kindergarten teachers.
Hetrick said that they would look "at existing programming and try to shift things," indicating that additional funding could go to social and health services or math and literacy coaching programs, among a host of other permitted uses. She added that this would be more likely than creating a new program due to budgetary constraints that the district currently faces.
Board member Jack Werner asked if there was a way to keep full day kindergarten budget neutral while not using ABG funds to pay for the teachers. "We can take a look at that and come back with that," Hetrick said, indicating that if the funding disappears in state budgets in subsequent years, those other programs receiving the funding would be at risk.
"I've been saying for a number of years 'How can we utilize this money without putting it forward toward kindergarten teachers,"' Zariczny noted, explaining that she would like to know if there is a budget neutral way to utilize the money without jeopardizing the program when the money is cut.
"The board priority is full day kindergarten and I heard that loud and clear," Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel said. "If we're in a tight budget year and I assume we will be then we have to prioritize kindergarten over something else and that's what we'll have to take a look at."
Hufnagel did note that a contingency was in place to preserve full day kindergarten for the upcoming school year had ABG funds been cut.
"If this money goes away, we're going to have to find another way to pay for it," Hufnagel said. "We'll just have to weigh out what's important. If we get more money from the state it won't be an issue."
Former board member Kim Angove called on the board to plan for next year assuming that ABG won't be available. "I know why we're doing itI think we need to heed the warning that this (ABG funding) is not going to last," Angove said, calling on the district to not fund full day kindergarten "on grant dollars that are at the whim of the state."
"Everything that ABG can be used for, it is either going to have to bring in a new program with it. You're still having to fund a way to fund it," Hufnagel said. "I am a supporter of full day kindergarten. I see the benefits."
Looking at other options that this funding can be used for, Dr. Paul Yourchisin, chairman of the committee noted that "these are all laudable but none are more laudable than full day kindergarten."