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Make MN Thrive: Bemidji Stimulus Funds Could Not Come at a Better Time.

The Bemidji School Board unanimously approved a plan to borrow $9 million to cover shifts in state funding to its school districts in mid-July, according to the Bemidji Pioneer. That’s why Bemidji’s federal stimulus money could not have come at a better time. The Pioneer reported that on July 20, the School Board approved almost $690,000 in stimulus money to go to Bemidji schools.

“We would never have gotten these programs if we didn’t have this money,” said [Bemidji School District Curriculum Director Kathy] Palm. “Everything just fell into place.”

The programs that Bemidji’s stimulus dollars will fund include the Reading Recovery Program and the Leveled Literacy Intervention Program. Reading Recovery works with first-graders who have difficulties learning to read and write.

Individual students receive a half-hour lesson each day for 12-20 weeks with a specially trained Reading Recovery teacher. As soon as students can meet grade-level expectations and can work independently in the classroom, their lessons are discontinued.

According to Palm, the Reading Recovery program has been successful in several school districts such as Brainerd and Thief River Falls, but the program is also expensive.

The Leveled Literacy Intervention program is similar to Reading Recovery, but is for groups of kindergarten to second grade students. These programs don’t focus on special education and the students’ lessons are discontinued when they can meet grade-level expectations.

A large portion of the stimulus funds will be directed toward two preschool programs for at-risk 4-year-olds at two elementary schools.

These programs would not be implemented in the Bemidji School District without the help of the federal stimulus money. The District has already had to take out an enormous loan thanks for our governor’s outrageous budget cuts. Communities all over the state are feeling the effects of the cuts, including schools, hospitals, and even Minnesota’s children. We need to defend Minnesota from budget cuts, and you can help by sharing our message on Facebook or by Tweeting it.

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