School Grants Of $29M Projected

Wilkes-Barre Times Leader

Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to privatize liquor sales would pour $29 million over four years into Luzerne County’s 11 school districts, according to data released by the state.

When Corbett unveiled his proposal on Feb. 5, he said privatization would generate $1 billion from the sale of the liquor system, and promised to use that money to create a four-year “Passport for Learning block grant program.”

The money would be allotted to districts through a formula using enrollment as a key factor. It could be used to boost four different aspects of education: security, early education, customized curriculum for students to learn at their own pace and classes in the “STEM” fields — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — in grades six through 12.

This week, the Corbett administration released estimates of how much each district would get, assuming the $1 billion materialized as expected.

Locally, the amounts in the first year range from $172,381 at Northwest Area, the county’s smallest district, to more than $1.5 million for Hazleton Area, the county’s largest district.

Over four years, the totals locally run from $861,905 at Northwest Area to almost $7.7 million at Hazleton Area.

The state doesn’t provide a year-by-year breakdown, but it’s clear the amount would increase after the first year.

With nearly $29.3 million countywide over four years, equal annual payments would come to $7.3 million a year. But the total for the first year is less than $5.9 million.

Corbett has warned the money would last only four years, and has started outlining ideas on how it could be used. For STEM work, for example, he has proposed things such as career exploration activities, opportunities for technical skill attainment and partnerships with colleges and other postsecondary training centers.

The governor has dubbed his preschool proposal “Ready by 3” and called for investment in kindergarten programs and enrichment programs to improve math and reading skills by grade three.

And his customized lesson idea uses the term “competency-based education,” with the idea of focusing on student mastery of a subject rather than amount of time spent in class.

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