Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth announced on Friday that almost $179 million has been officially awarded to 327 K-12 public schools across the state that submitted applications and demonstrated a need for capital improvements in their facilities.
The Alabama K-12 Capital Grant Program, created by the legislature during its 2023 regular session, allowed public schools to apply for one-time funding for needed capital projects, deferred maintenance, technology improvements, school security enhancements, or existing debt service.
State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee, told 1819 News on Friday, "The goal was rather than just using a formula-driven determination as to how the money was divided, we wanted the Lieutenant Governor's Office to make more strategic decisions requiring matches from local education agencies to be more discerning rather than just using a formula based on student enrollment."
"Some schools have needs that just aren't reflected in that. We also wanted to require a match based on their request to stretch the money," Orr said. "The higher-growth areas are certainly busting at the seams then you have what I'll refer to as poorer school systems that have severe capital needs and don't have the capacity to address those needs. Hopefully, it was a good fit across the state to put money where it is needed the most. There will always be disappointments and exceptions but we appreciate the Lieutenant Governor's Office agreeing to take this on."
Orr said the program was planned as a "one-time thing."
"We'll see what kind of revenues we have when session starts. I doubt that we will do it again because we know that revenues are already declining, but it seemed like for a historic one-time amount of dollars we had to spend having a small capital project program like this seemed like a good thing to do," Orr said.
The Lieutenant Governor's Office was responsible for administering and overseeing the application, review and award process.
"Before awarding grants, we consulted with lawmakers across the state to gather their insights because they know their districts and the biggest needs within them," Ainsworth said. "We reviewed each application with strict adherence to the law, prioritized the schools and systems where funding would make the biggest impact, and worked hard to make sure each geographic region and area of the state received a fair allocation."
Award letters were mailed to school systems this week, and once requested financial information has been submitted, funding will be released.
Orr said matching funds required of the school districts to receive the grants varied.
"If you're a poor, struggling school district in a rural part of the state with not a large tax base, your match would be less than say, for example, a Huntsville City Schools or something like that," Orr said.
According to the Lieutenant Governor's Office, 80% of the grants were awarded to schools where more than half of the students are considered at-risk. Grants were awarded in 137 school systems across Alabama. The average grant amount awarded was $546,032.11, and the precise total of grants awarded was $178,552,500.
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