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Fiscal Cliff impacting schools: Pinellas to lose $6.3 million

8:19 PM, Dec 31, 2012   |    comments
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LARGO, Florida-The Fiscal Cliff, if left unresolved, will hit education hard, cutting $4 billion from federally funded school programs. Florida's share equals $173 million starting in the 2013-2014 school year and continuing for the next 10 years.

Every school district will be impacted. Pinellas will lose $6.3 million in federal funding, affecting 20 programs. One of the hardest hit programs is Title 1 in schools serving kids from low income families. Schools with less than 75 percent of its students on free and reduced lunch will lose Title 1 funding -- that includes 12 of 46 Pinellas schools.

Single dad Stewart Blouin picks up his 7-year-old daughter, Bianca, from her afterschool program at Frontier Elementary School. The program runs even during the holidays. Stewart says, "We need the aftercare and before care, or else we can't make ends meet."

This federally funded program may go away next school year now that lawmakers have taken us over the fiscal cliff. Stewart says lawmakers are "playing with my money."

Pinellas School board members, including Carol Cook, signed a resolution this month asking Congress to hold education harmless. "Our most vulnerable of all students are the ones significantly impacted by this," says Cook.

Pinellas' share of $6.3 million federals dollars means 12 schools serving students from low income families lose funding. Besides before and afterschool care programs, tutoring and staff will be reduced. Others cuts include services to 13,000 special needs students, non-English speaking students, training for teachers and principals, and the purchase of instructional materials and technology.

Cook says, "It will impact every student in Pinellas County one way or another."

Schools officials say they may try to save some federal programs, but that means the money will be taken from other areas. Cook says Pinellas has already cut about $150 million in the last 5 to 6 years due to a poor economy.

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