New York Mills School Superintendent Todd Cameron spent the beginning of last week poring through the budget, trying to find the $22,000 needed to help pay for an additional kindergarten teacher.
He found it within the Title I budget.
In his recommendation to the school board, Cameron stated that approximately $22,000 of Title I funds could be used to support math and reading instruction in kindergarten next year, by hiring a fourth teacher.
As kindergarten enrollment numbers inch toward 70, the school board said in July that it would be in favor of hiring an additional teacher - if Cameron was able develop a plan to pay for 50 percent of that teacher's salary.
In an interview, Cameron said his plan is connected to the waiver the state received last year from the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
Under No Child Left Behind, NY Mills and some other schools that were not making Adequate Yearly Progress had to save 25 percent of their Title I funding to pay for staff development. The waiver released Minnesota schools from such restrictions, however, the NY Mills district had yet to designate that Title 1 funding for other uses.
Title I funds - an estimated $150,000 a year for the NY Mills district - help schools with high poverty levels meet state academic achievement standards by investing in things like staff development and reading and math support.
Cameron said, "There is a direct correlation between smaller class size, academic success and positive social interaction," and therefore, hiring a fourth kindergarten teacher falls within the Title I funding guidelines.
In a call last week to the Minnesota Department of Education, it was verbally confirmed that Title I funds could be used to pay for a portion of a teachers salary, he added.
Before it can receive the funds, the district has to send a written application to the state explaining how the Title I funding will be used.
With the addition of a fourth section, the teacher-to-student ratio will be around 17. Without that extra teacher, the number of pupils per classroom would be closer to 23. The current enrollment for kindergarten is 68 pupils--a 10-year high.