Castor, Hillsborough Schools officials celebrate windfall
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02/17/09 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

As part of the federal stimulus plan signed into law by President Barack Obama, more than $5 billion in education funding is expected to come to Florida.

In Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor’s 11th Congressional District which encompasses Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Manatees Counties, $145 million is coming soon.

Castor spoke this morning from Chamberlain High School, her alma matter, where she was joined by dozens of people, including local school board officials, and dozens of students from Chamberlain.

President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus bill today, four weeks after he was inaugurated. Castor said the education funding by itself will absolutely bring an immediate jolt to the Tampa Bay area economy.

Chamberlain is what is known as a Title One School, which as designated by the federal government means 40 percent or more of its students come from families that qualify as low income. Castor says $45 million will go to her district for those schools.

There will also be $26 million for students with special needs in the congresswoman’s district.

Hillsborough County School Board Member Jack Lamb says that until now, Congress has failed to live up to its promises to fund what is officially known as IDEA – Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

Winne Ty, assistant superintendent for Curriculum and Instructions, said the Hillsborough County School Board is assemblying a task force immediately to deal with how best to spend its new largess.

Some of the criticism of the economic stimulus bill is that it’s not as timely as it needs to be to give the economy a jolt. But supporters – such as Hillsborough County School Superintendent MaryEllen Elia – say that much of the funding that goes under School Modernization will be a cost saver for a long time to come.

Although the stimlus bill has been lambasted by conservative critics in unsparing terms, there are economists – and not just those considered on the left – who think the $792 billion bill will be insufficient to effectively do the job.

Economist Mark Zandi of Moodys.com, who advised the McCain campaign last year, told Fox News on Sunday he thinks the Obama administration will need to go back to Congress next year for a second stimulus bill.

Castor says the emphasis now needs to be on the housing crisis.

Although the stimulus bill is being compared to legislation that Franklin Roosevelt churned out during his first 100 days in office some 75 years ago, the acclaim has been mixed for Obama, since his administration had at one time spoken about having 80 senators support the bill, as well as a number of House Republicans.

It didn’t work out that way. Some Democrats say Obama shouldn’t concern himself so much with bi-partisianship, since some of his concessions, like extensive tax breaks, didn’t win him much, if any Republican support.

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