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Schools can apply for portion of $179M capital grant fund

Public K-12 schools can now apply for up to $5 million from a state-funded capital grant program.

Created earlier this year with surplus revenue in the state education fund, the $179 million fund is one-time money. The Alabama K-12 Capital Grant Program is administered by Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth’s office. 

“This grant program offers a unique and historic opportunity to address longstanding needs within our local schools across the state,” Ainsworth said in a written statement this week. “Our goal is to ensure that the funding is used to improve the educational experience for students, teachers, and parents alike.” 

The fund was created in legislation this year by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.

According to the bill, the awarded funds can be used to:

  • Assist with capital projects that will enhance the educational environment of students;
  • Pay for existing debt on previous capital projects;
  • Assist with deferred maintenance on existing facilities;
  • Assist with projects to increase school safety and security and for technology and equipment for schools or students.

Orr told Alabama Daily News this week the fund is intended to help with the explosion in construction costs in the past year and allow schools to complete their capital projects in the black. 

He also said lawmakers wanted a more targeted funding mechanism based on need and local match dollars, rather than the rigid disbursement formula such as what’s used in the Advancement and Technology Fund, which is allocated based on schools’ student population.

Last year, the Advancement and Technology Fund, which can be used on a list of expenses including capital projects, security improvements and technology upgrades, was worth $76.5 million for institutions of higher education and $205.7 million for K-12 schools.

There was not an Advancement and Technology supplemental bill in the Legislature this year as lawmakers don’t have to allocate the funds each year.

Kirk Fulford of the Legislative Services Agency said the current balance in the fund is roughly $750 million and as much as $1 billion could be added at the close of this fiscal year, due to legislative changes this year in education spending caps and how excess revenues are allocated.

The new capital project fund legislation requires the lieutenant governor’s office to use a sliding scale for match requirements, “taking into consideration the financial capacity of the eligible K-12 entity to provide matching funds. The office shall ensure that grant proposals from eligible K-12 entities with considerable populations of at-risk students receive priority consideration for review.”

The required matching grant can’t be more than 35% of the total project cost.

 “I think this is a very expeditious way to get capital projects underway in some districts that have difficulty accessing funding,” Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, told Alabama Daily News. He’s chairman of the House education budget committee. “I think primarily a lot of the rural areas will benefit from this.” 

To receive grant money, schools’ applications have to be endorsed by their local state senator and representative.

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