Although he has been loathe to accept some of the federal stimulus funds allotted for Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour announced today that the federal government has approved the state's plan for more than $321 million for education from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"Approval of Mississippi's plan to spend fiscal stabilization monies provided in the stimulus package for education is an important milestone," Barbour said in a statement. "It means we can now move ahead with the Legislature to develop prudent, pragmatic and conservative budgets as we prepare to cope with declining state revenues through Fiscal Year 2012."
U.S. Rep. Travis Childers said the funds will save "hundreds of thousands" of teaching jobs put at risk because of declining state revenues and budget cuts.
"These significant recovery funds will help save teaching jobs, improve education, and prevent budget shortfalls throughout Mississippi … during tough economic times," Childers said in a separate statement. "Giving our children a good education now means preparing them for the future and providing them with the skills and resources they need to succeed in today's especially competitive environment."
The federal government approved Mississippi's State Stabilization Application, which addresses funding for public schools, community colleges and universities, according to the releases. Mississippi will be eligible to apply for another $158 million this fall. To date, Mississippi has received nearly $135 million in education stimulus funds—representing a combination of funding for Title I, IDEA, Vocational Rehabilitation Grants, Independent Living Grants and Homeless Education Grants. On April 1, 2009, Mississippi, received more than $66 million in Title I funding and more than $63 million in IDEA funding. This represents 50 percent of the total funding for Title I and IDEA that Mississippi is eligible for. On April 1, 2009, Mississippi also received more than $3 million in Vocational Rehab funds and $574,295 in Independent Living funds. On April 10, 2009, Mississippi received $896,372 in Homeless Education grants.
Rep. Childer's release added that to receive today's funds, Mississippi provided assurances that they will collect, publish, analyze and act on basic information regarding the quality of classroom teachers, annual student improvements, college readiness, the effectiveness of state standards and assessments, progress on removing charter caps, and interventions in turning around under-performing schools.
Mississippi is also required by the Department of Education to report the number of jobs saved through Recovery Act funding, the amount of state and local tax increases averted, and how funds are used.