Sacramento area using federal stimulus funds to pay teachers

Kwame Dwumfuoh started classes at Elk Grove Unified School District's new Eagle Academy in August in silence. The 7-year-old didn't talk or socialize with his classmates, and he didn't eat most foods.

Now Kwame speaks and plays with his friends, and he has a newfound affinity for tortilla chips, cereal and the occasional chicken burger.

He is flourishing in a school for students with autism spectrum disorders that Elk Grove Unified started with $1.8 million in federal stimulus dollars. The money also paid for programs for emotionally disturbed students at three other campuses.

Nearly $300 million has poured into five Sacramento-area districts since President Barack Obama authorized $100 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for the nation's schools last year.

Federal officials knew that districts strapped for funds because of declining state aid would use some of the stimulus money to plug budget gaps. But they'd hoped the money also would be used to start new programs — like Eagle Academy — that are innovative and reform education.

While Eagle Academy stands out as a new program that is drawing kids previously sent to schools outside the district back into Elk Grove Unified, it is a rarity among local districts.

A Bee analysis finds that most local districts used their federal stimulus money to pay for keeping teachers and basic programs.

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