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Education 'stimulus' money hardly stimulates CMS

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools finally has its portion of some federal stimulus money earmarked for the state's education department, but the district didn't have much say in what it would be used for. Basically, the district thought its $35 million was in bureaucratic limbo in Raleigh. But it turns out the district had it and didn't even know it. North Carolina received federal stimulus money called "stabilization funding." It was the job of the state to distribute that funding to local school districts and other government bodies. And CMS had expected to receive about $35 million from it. District officials thought they would be able to use it to help plug a budget hole. But for months, it wasn't very clear when and how they would receive the money. Superintendent Peter Gorman says the district learned recently that the General Assembly swapped a portion of the state's education funding out for the stabilization funding. "We found the money!" he exclaims. "It's $34.8 million. The state made reductions in instructional and non-instructional materials about equal to the amount of stimulus money from the federal stimulus stabilization fund." The General Assembly cut $379 million in funding for support staff. So the stabilization funding effectively plugged a hole, but it was a hole that the district had not anticipated.