Stimulus funds targeting homeless students are the latest in a wave of federal funds being made available to Tennessee school districts.
About $185,000 in federal funds will soon be made available for Metro Nashville Public Schools to help homeless students, according to the Tennessee Department of Education. That’s more than any other district in the state — Memphis City schools is eligible to receive about $147,000 through this program.
A little more than $1 million, total, is allocated through this program for Tennessee districts this year.
Metro Nashville Public Schools identified 1,412 district students earlier this spring who are considered homeless by the federal definitions, according to Catherine Knowles, the district’s homeless education program supervisor. Most of these kids live “doubled up” in residences with other families, Knowles said.
The new stimulus dollars, which total slightly more than $130 per identified homeless student, can be used for school supplies, transportation costs, supplemental instruction services, and social services for families of homeless students. This is in addition to the homeless student funding the district receives through the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
“It will certainly help,” Knowles said. “We certainly expect continued increase in the number of [homeless] kids, particularly that we’ll see next school year. This will just give us additional funds with which to meet their needs.”
District funds for homeless students already are used to provide transportation services necessary to keep kids in attendance at just one school, even if multiple moves take place in a short time, and for assistance with goods like school supplies and standard student attire.
Funds targeting homeless students are the most recently calculated of several stimulus allocations for public school districts. Funds targeting technology and lunchroom equipment have previously been announced, in addition to millions worth of stimulus dollars that will help Metro schools provide services for kids with disabilities and economic disadvantages.
MNPS stands to be allocated a total of $24.6 million in federal stimulus Title I dollars to be used specifically for students and schools meeting federal low-income guidelines, and more than $20 million in stimulus dollars Metro will receive through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which can be used only on services for students covered by the act.
MNPS will have a longer wait for Title I funds than most other Tennessee districts, due to years of being out of compliance with federal programs spending. Federal Title I dollars intended for Metro have been frozen since December due to non-compliant spending on the part of MNPS. Most money that will reach schools through the federal stimulus package will flow through Title I, and until Metro resolves its federal spending troubles, Title I stimulus money will be frozen along with the rest.
Though stimulus funds stand to help the district, there’s only so much the money can do to ease pressure on the district’s operating budget. Any stimulus dollars the district uses to fund recurring expenses will have to be replaced with local dollars after the two-year stimulus program is complete.
District officials have acknowledged the growing likelihood that $15 million in budget cuts for the next year — which includes the elimination of a net total of 209 school district staff positions — will have to take place.
The school board’s budget committee recently scheduled a budget meeting for 5 p.m. Thursday at the district’s central office, 2601 Bransford Ave. The board is also slated to discuss the budget at a meeting at 1 p.m. Friday afternoon, also at the district’s central office.