D90 gets federal Title I funds

More than 5 percent of students live below poverty line

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By Deb Kadin

For the first time in many years, River Forest Elementary District 90 will be getting federal money to improve the academic achievement of low-income students.

With more than 5 percent of its students living below the poverty level, the district qualified for the federal money, called Title I, which has been used by districts around the country to support initiatives that improve classroom instruction.

Approximately $132,600 has been allocated by D90 to improve instruction in mathematics, which officials say also will help bolster achievement for all of the district's 1,300 students. Some money was used this summer for professional development in teaching math.

About $76,000 will be used to hire an instructional specialist who will help teachers implement Common Core, a successful effort that aligns learning standards on a national level, said Superintendent Edward Condon. The specialist also will help faculty tailor classroom instruction to the different ways students learn, also called "differentiated instruction."

The hope is that with the use of this money, academic levels of all students will rise, not just those who are economically disadvantaged, said Anthony Cozzi, the district's director of finance and facilities.

According to 2010 Census data, the level of poverty in River Forest was 5.3 percent.

The federal money is part of a nearly $22 million budget unveiled in July. Overall, the district will focus the bulk of its 2014 spending plan — nearly $20 million — on programs and services related to education, building operations and maintenance, plus transportation of children for special education services as well as student field trips. The rest will cover expenses related to life safety work, capital improvements and the payment of debt.

Spending for education-related expenses will go up about 4 percent. That includes raises of 2.7 percent for teachers, administrators, support staff and all other employees who perform education-related services. About 82.4 percent of expenses in the education fund pay the salaries and benefits of personnel.

Other items of note in the budget include:

A new textbook adoption related to Common Core literacy standards for students in grades kindergarten through fifth, $260,000.

Increase in tuition for children with special needs who have to get services outside of D90, $175,000. Busing those children will cost more than $200,000, which will come from the transportation fund.

Software and equipment to help ready the schools in the event of a lockdown or other crisis situation, $35,000.

iPads and other equipment to aid students with special needs with their education, $20,000.

Revenue will remain virtually unchanged. The district will continue to get about $300 per pupil, or $400,000, in state aid. That figure is based on the best three-month average of daily attendance.

Residents can look at the budget starting Aug. 16 in the administration building, 7776 W. Lake St. The spending document for the school year ending June 30, 2014 will be on the school board's agenda on Aug. 19.

The budget can be changed at any time before adoption, which is expected Sept. 16.

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