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Stimulus funds allow schools to avoid grim year

Stimulus money and selected cuts will help Spokane Public Schools avoid an ugly budget scenario next year.

Superintendent Nancy Stowell’s recommended budget for 2009-’10, released Wednesday, adds all-day kindergarten at two schools, avoids teacher layoffs and buys new math books. However, 42 teaching positions will remain vacant after retirements and resignations.

“We’re glad that the worst did not occur and that the board was able to bring forth its recommendations early so it all could be considered,” spokeswoman Terren Roloff said.

The school board will review the budget this summer and is expected to vote on it Aug. 12.

The district received $7million in federal stimulus money, and officials said a portion of it was used to backfill the budget. For example, levy funds typically used for special education were replaced by federal dollars, freeing funds to hire back teachers, said Mark Anderson, an associate superintendent.

The two additional all-day kindergarten programs also will be funded through federal money. Starting in the fall, Garfield Elementary in the West Central neighborhood and Linwood Elementary in north Spokane will offer the program. Out of 34 elementary schools, 14 offer all-day kindergarten.

“The program is a priority for the school board,” Anderson said.

The recommended budget also restores $200,000 to purchase new math books.

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