Janesville63.9°

Stimulus money sparks discussion for school board

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
July 15, 2009
— The use of $2.43 million in federal stimulus funding sparked sometimes heated discussion at Tuesday night's meeting of the Janesville School Board.

The money is earmarked for special education, but $968,655 of it could be used for any other purpose in the district budget, said Director of Special Education Barb Hilliker.


Two pages of her report had been left out of the materials the board received in advance of the meeting, so board members had no details of how the money might be spent. Those pages were copied and distributed at the board table.


Board president DuWayne Severson was "concerned" about the lack of detail in Hilliker's report on how she proposed to use the large sum.


Hilliker proposed using $500,000 for other budget purposes and keeping the rest for special education.


Severson seemed upset that Hilliker was determining how the money would be spent. Hilliker said that wasn't the case, that the board has the final say, and the uses of the money could be modified later.


"This is real money. I'm sorry," Severson said at one point to explain his interest.


In the end, board member Tim Cullen proposed the board approve just $150,000 in spending, which is needed to get some special-education construction projects done before school starts, and to tell Hilliker to come back with a detailed plan at the next meeting. That passed, 7-1.


Kevin Murray, who favored Hilliker's plan, voted no.


Other business

The Janesville School Board on Tuesday:


-- Rejected an administration request to raise school lunch prices by 10 cents per meal. Any change would not have affected federally subsidized lunches.


-- Approved a plan for Chinese-language instruction in grades 3, 4 and 5 at Harrison and Roosevelt schools. The plan will require hiring a second teacher of Chinese, at least half-time, at the middle school level starting in 2010-11. An online course for high school students also is planned.


-- Approved, at the committee level, Superintendent Karen Schulte's recommendation to end the All-City Sing, which involved all the fourth- and fifth-graders from the 12 elementary schools performing in unison at Craig High School. The board declared a moratorium on the activity two years ago. The Sing cost about $10,000. Principals prefer students perform at their own schools, but music teachers were divided on the issue, Schulte said. The full board will take up the issue at a future meeting.


-- Discussed reviving the district boundary-line committee, which would set standards for closing a school if enrollment were to decline enough. Policy calls for seven "citizen" members and one school administrator. Schulte suggested the board might want to alter the committee makeup. Discussion was to continue at the July 28 meeting.



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