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Stimulus Money Trickling Into the Classroom

John Tulenko of Learning Matters Television explores how stimulus money is making its way into classrooms in upstate New York.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And finally tonight: federal stimulus money and a school system in upstate New York.

    The reporter is John Tulenko of Learning Matters television, which produces education stories for the "NewsHour."

  • JOHN TULENKO:

    When Andrew Walker started high school in Rochester, New York, his learning disability made graduation seem unlikely.

  • ANDREW WALKER, Student:

    Sometimes, I would be having problems figuring things out. Like, sometimes, I'm reading something and I don't really get it. I would raise my hand. I didn't know what I was doing. I just wasn't learning.

  • JOHN TULENKO:

    But a program to train students with special needs for the work force, Rochester's Work Experience Program, put Andrew on track for on-time graduation. Now a senior, he's in small academic classes that meet every morning, and, every afternoon, he earns school credit building this house.

  • ANDREW WALKER:

    When it's finished, I could just come back and look at it, like, yes, I did that. That's pretty beautiful, give you a lot of pride.

  • JOHN TULENKO:

    But with the economy in recession, Rochester schools began cutting back on programs like this one.

    Carleen Meers is the director.

  • CARLEEN MEERS:

    I went to look at certain budget lines, and they were markedly different than what I had expected.

  • JOHN TULENKO:

    How different?

  • CARLEEN MEERS:

    Well, some lines at zero. And that's a little scary when you're looking at a salary line. And I said, this can't be right. This can't be right, because we can't run the program.

  • JOHN TULENKO:

    Work Experience wasn't the only program in jeopardy.

    Jean-Claude Brizard oversees Rochester's 60 schools and its budget of $700 million.

    JEAN-CLAUDE BRIZARD, superintendent, Rochester City Schools: We had a $50 million budget shortfall coming into last fiscal year. At the time, we were predicting about 500 layoffs, which would create a big problem for us as a district. I know, as a city, we couldn't put 500 individuals in the streets.

  • JOHN TULENKO:

    Then, in February, the president signed the stimulus, sending $100 billion to the nation's schools to be spent over two years.

  • U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    Because we know America can't outcompete the world tomorrow if our children are being outeducated today, we're making the largest investment in education in our nation's history.