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By Moneth G. Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 20) – Three U.S. federal block grants totaling $18 million are expected to be received by the Public School System in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in October.

PSS federal programs officer Tim Thornburgh said a consolidated block grant of $10 million would come from the U.S. Department of Education and the money will be used for the following

Thornburgh said under the USDOE grant, 12 programs were consolidated into one.

"We could have never opened the new schools without the 70 teachers being paid out of the federal grant and that’s $3.5 million. The training for teachers, meanwhile, will help them pass Praxis 2 which is a requirement under the law," he said.

The consolidated nutrition assistance grant of $6.2 million will pay for the breakfasts, lunches and snacks of all public and private school students.

Thornburgh said every year, a portion of the nutrition grant assistance is also allocated for the repair and maintenance of school cafeterias.

Because it will get an additional $450,000 in the nutrition grant, PSS hopes to serve free snacks to all private and public school students starting in October.

Currently, PSS offers free snacks for elementary school pupils only.

Thornburgh said the grant comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture under its food and nutrition service program.

The third block grant amounting to $1.8 million is the Child Care Development Fund which will come from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Of the amount, Thornburgh said $1.3 million will pay for the subsidized child care services provided by the 18 child care centers in the commonwealth.

"The remaining $500,000 will be used for after-school programs and quality enhancement," said Thornburgh.

He said the Board of Education is scheduled to meet next week and will discuss the expenditure planning for the three block grants.

"These are all grants that we are applying for and for which the money has already been allocated for us. We develop the block grant, we take them to the board for approval and then submit it to the federal government," he said. "We have done this expenditure planning to make sure that the funds will flow directly to us beginning Oct. 1."

July 20, 2005

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