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Rep. Connolly: Stimulus Deal Has Direct $ for Fx. Schools

Fairfax County schools, facing $10 million in cuts in the coming budget, will get significant, targeted relief from the huge $819 billion economic stimulus bill that passed the U.S. House last night.

U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, in his first month in Congress since moving over as the Chair of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, told the News-Press yesterday that the bill includes $74 million that will go directly to the county school system. Another $30 million will go to neighboring Prince William County, part of a $793.3 million total going directly to Virginia school districts.

The money that will come to Fairfax schools, if the bill survives the U.S. Senate in anything like its present form, includes funds for construction and increases in funding for Title 1 programs to improve academic achievement among disadvantaged students and programs under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, according to Connolly’s office.

But it is hoped to relieve pressure to cut other vital programs in the Fairfax schools’ operating budget for the coming fiscal year beginning July 1, and that may help restore funding for county gymnastics and indoor track competition.

Athletes, parents and others packed the Luther Jackson Middle School auditorium last week to plead and protest against the proposed elimination of the two sports programs.

U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, whose district includes Arlington, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax, issued a statement late yesterday breaking down the funding allocations in the stimulus package, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

With a total price tag of $819 billion, the mix of stimulus funds and tax breaks is aimed at an immediate intervention to protect and create jobs. With 71,000 jobs lost this Monday alone, known as result as “Bloody Monday,” economists predict that as many as four million jobs will be lost in 2009, on top of 2.5 million lost in 2008, and the stimulus package is aimed at mitigating that impact. It offers tax breaks, an extension of unemployment and food stamp benefits and extensive new construction and infrastructure repair funds.

Connolly appeared at a press conference at the Capitol yesterday with five other freshmen congressmen from around the U.S. to talk about the package and its importance to regions all over the country.

He said that money to the school systems in his district come to “two in terrible fiscal distress,” and added that 95 percent of working families in the U.S. will receive “significant tax breaks.”

He added the Pell Grant program will be restored to benefit millions of Americans, and that job generation is a key to the overall program, not only in terms of providing jobs related to infrastructure, but also in state and local government and education.

Fairfax County, he said, will get dollars for transportation, the Community Block Development Grant program, and to stabilize the fiscal state of local government. That includes working to restore municipal bond credit markets, he said.

While there is no earmarking in the plan, he said he expects that significant funds will wind up going to Phase II of the Metro rail to Dulles project, the phase that currently has no federal funding.

Most of the money will come through the state government, in negotiation between Gov. Tim Kaine and the Congressional delegation, except for the money that will go directly to the school systems.

Moran’s statement broke out the dollars coming to Virginia as follows: $39.2 million for job training and investment services, $733 million for roads and highways, $265.7 million for unemployment benefits extension, $360.7 million for food stamp benefits, $793.3 million for school district funding and $136 million for water system modernization and repair. Also, there will be a child tax credit of up to $1,000 for 269,000 children in the state, and a Making Work Pay Tax Credit of up to $500 per workers for 2,716,000 Virginians.

It said that 116,580 jobs in Virginia will be created or saved by the end of 2010.

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