Briefing on the Federal Stimulus Package
SENATE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
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10:56 AM -- Briefing on the Federal Stimulus Package
Matt Gianneschi, representing the Governor's Office, came to the table to speak to the committee about education spending under the federal "American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009" (ARRA). He provided two handouts: a chart compiled by the Council of State Governments illustrating ARRA funding for Colorado and a document from Recovery.gov that provides an overview of education funding under ARRA (Attachments A and B).
Dr. Gianneschi spoke to the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, saying these funds come into the Governor's Office, for distribution by the Governor. He talked about how these funds are to be spent, beginning with the Education Block Grant funds, which make up 81.8 percent of the total State Fiscal Stabilization Fund moneys. He said this money may be used toward required funding growth, which in Colorado's case, means funding to meet Amendment 23 requirements. The remaining funds, he said, would be used for higher education. He explained how that funding can be used under the ARRA. Dr. Gianneschi said the money cannot be used for capital construction.
Dr. Gianneschi responded to a committee question about higher education funding, saying that federal moneys may be used to restore higher education funding that has recently been cut. Discussion on this topic ensued. The committee also discussed with Dr. Gianneschi the provisions of the School Finance Act that might utilize ARRA moneys.
Dr. Gianneschi next described what states are being expected to do in order to receive ARRA education dollars and explained where Colorado stands on each of those issues.
Dr. Gianneschi continued his presentation, talking about discretion that exists in the spending of ARRA moneys.
He responded to a committee question about when the moneys will be distributed to the state, explaining that State Fiscal Stabilization Fund moneys are dependent on the state plan that must be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.
Richard Wenning, representing the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), responded to a committee question about to whom the moneys will be distributed, talking about the moneys that will be dispersed to school districts and explaining the distribution formula. Mr. Wenning also described how those moneys may be used by school districts. He said school districts will need to apply for moneys through the CDE. Mr. Wenning said the CDE will support school districts in deciding how to best spend the moneys. Committee discussion on how the money will be distributed and how it can be used by school districts ensued.
Dr. Gianneschi responded to a committee question about charter school capital construction, saying that there has been discussion around expanding programs like B.E.S.T. to leverage federal moneys. The committee discussed this issue with Dr. Gianneschi.
Dr. Gianneschi responded to a committee question related to the planning in place to make sure the ARRA moneys are spent wisely. He explained that there is a segregation of duties between the CDE and the Governor's Office. He said the Governor has appointed a committee to oversee the spending of ARRA dollars, and explained that the process will be as transparent as possible. Committee discussion with Dr. Gianneschi around the "cliff effect" - what happens in two years when ARRA funding ends - ensued.
Mr. Wenning talked about planning around spending of the ARRA moneys, and described the three handouts he provided to the committee: one providing an analysis of the preK-12 provisions of ARRA; one listing state assurances required under ARRA; and one containing a CDE Recovery Act Alert (Attachments C, D, and E). He spoke specifically state assurances required in ARRA.
The committee discussed with Mr. Wenning and Dr. Gianneschi how the state can best position itself to receive federal "Race to the Top" grant moneys. Dr. Gianneschi said the state is seeking direction on what the criteria for "Race to the Top" funding will look like. He talked about the committee that will oversee the process. He described the magnitude of "Race to the Top," which, he clarified, is a supplementary competitive grant program.
The committee talked about committing Colorado's ideas to paper in competing for these funds and discussed how the General Assembly can work with the Governor's Office going forward.
Dr. Gianneschi responded to a committee question about whether some funding that has recently been cut needs to be restored if the state is to be competitive in competing for "Race to the Top" funds.
Mr. Wenning responded to a question about ARRA money that can be used to supplant state spending versus ARRA money that can be used to supplement existing resources. Committee discussion on this issue ensued.
Committee discussion continued, with conversation about current legislation and whether it might take advantage of federal ARRA moneys. Dr. Gianneschi responded to a committee question about how the state will meet the assurance around standards and assessments, speaking to Senate Bill 09-163.