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Monday, April 21, 2014

$3M additional federal aid for CNMI public schools OK’d

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) has disclosed that Commonwealth public schools would soon receive new funds from the federal government to the tune of $3 million.

Sablan confirmed that the U.S. Department of Education has initially approved the award of $3 million in additional funding for the Public School System starting this fiscal year.

Commonwealth public schools will be represented at the “final” meeting with USDOE by Education Commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan, federal programs officer Tim Thornburgh, and Sablan himself. The meeting is slated in mid-January in the nation’s capital.

“This $3 million new money for PSS took us about two years of work. Next month, the commissioner and some staff will go to DC to meet and sign out with some finality on this new funding for our schools,” Delegate Sablan told Saipan Tribune.

Sablan said that PSS—compared to other agencies—has a proven track record in using federal dollars for educational needs in the Commonwealth. He cited PSS’ success in using up the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund under the American Recovery Reinvestment Act in a timely manner. This particular grant awarded the CNMI $44 million in ARRA funding, of which $32.3 million was earmarked for public education. This funding expired last Sept. 30, 2013.
“PSS did a wonderful work with the ARRA monies: improved its curriculum, hired 90 teachers, paid portion of payrolls, and others,” said Sablan.

He assured education officials of his continued support for the system in the years to come.

According to Commissioner Sablan, the expected new funding from USDOE will be used for instructional programs and trainings for teachers. She told Saipan Tribune that the $3-million is in addition to the Title I consolidated grant earlier granted the PSS this fiscal year 2014.
“With all the new calculations [under the Title I consolidated grant], PSS will be receiving an additional $3-million, which is part of the new formula. We’re looking forward to the $3-million increase, which will support our instructional programs, our trainings, activities, and initiatives on technology,” said the commissioner, confirming her upcoming meeting with USDOE next month.
PSS receives assistance from various federal agencies amounting to $28 million to $29 million each fiscal year.

Saipan Tribune learned that PSS, in partnership with the Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning, submitted a grant application to the USDOE in September this year that, if approved, will give public schools over $3 million in new funding.
The new federal funding opportunity is designed to help school districts implement the common core standards.

PSS began enforcing common core standards for English, language arts, and mathematics in school year 2011. This aligned PSS with 48 other states in the U.S. mainland and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Once it gets the new funding, PSS will use it to improve the implementation of common core standards next school year, 2014-2015. The $3 million is a three-year grant specifically designed for in-depth knowledge and research on common core standards.

The common core state standards initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers. These common core state standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses, and in workforce training programs. The standards are aligned with college and work expectations; are clear, understandable and consistent; include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills; build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards; are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in the global economy and society; and are evidence-based.

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