WASHINGTON, D.C.—Marianas schools will receive more than $4 million in new money in the coming school year, as a result of a funding formula change by Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP). The new formula will go into effect along with the spending agreement for the federal government that congressional negotiators reached over the weekend.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote Wednesday on the agreement, which funds the U.S. government through the end of the fiscal year. The Senate should follow suit by Friday. The agreement increases by $550 million over last year the appropriation for low-income elementary and secondary school students nationwide. And this increase triggers the new allocation for insular area schools that Sablan included in Every Student Succeeds Act in the last Congress. The funding increase for Marianas schools should now continue year-after-year.
“Increased funding for our schools has always been my number one priority,” Sablan said. “That is why I became a member of the House Education Committee, when I was first elected to Congress.
“We had to work very hard to get this formula change for island schools enacted. In fact, it was the only change in the funding for low-income student populations nationwide that was allowed.
“Now, with approval of increased funding overall for economically disadvantaged students, my new formula for how much federal money goes to the island schools will go into effect.”
According to the Congressional Research Service, Marianas schools are estimated to receive $11 million in fiscal year 2017 under the new formula, $4 million more than in FY 2016 and a substantial 63 -percent increase.
In addition to the funding for low-income students from Kindergarten through high school, the new spending agreement also increases funding for low-income college students through Pell grants, another Sablan priority. The maximum Pell grant will now be $5,920 for the 2017-2018 school year.
The appropriation agreement also reinstates summer semester funding for Pell grants that should provide, on average, $1,650 to students who choose year-round schooling.
Water infrastructure in the Marianas will continue to benefit from the funding formula first altered when Sablan came to office in 2009. Language increasing the set-aside for insular areas to 1.5 percent under both the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water funds remains in the FY 2017 spending bill now agreed to, and funding amounts are held steady.
The Marianas should receive approximately $6.4 million for drinking water and sewage systems this year, bringing the total water infrastructure funding during Sablan’s time in office to $65 million.
Without the formula change the Marianas would only receive about $1.2 million.
Also up are technical assistance funds for the Office of Insular Affairs. The Maintenance Assistance Fund component increases by $2.9 million to $4 million. The Coral Reef Initiative goes up $250,000 to $1.25 million. And there is an extra $500,000 for the Empowering Insular Communities program, which is helping the insular areas become more energy independent, bringing total funding to $3.5 million.
The technical assistance fund used for discretionary grants also increased, by $1.3 million to $16.8 million.
“The total $5 million in additional technical assistance of all kinds for the insular areas is a milestone,” Sablan said, “after many years of belt-tightening.” (PR)