Atlanta Public Schools to spend $30.5 million from rainy day fund

Atlanta Public Schools will take $30.5 million from its rainy day fund to pay for employee stipends, academic support and other expenses that have piled up during the pandemic.

The school board this week unanimously approved using $30,515,000 from the district’s fund balance. That should leave APS with just over $100 million in its rainy day coffers when the budget year ends in June.

The district tries to preserve its fund balance to help weather tough economic times. Chief Financial Officer Lisa Bracken told board members they should maintain that practice but also recommended the district use some of the money now.

“We must balance the caution of saving for tomorrow with addressing the needs of today,” she said.

More than half of the $30.5 million will be used for two initiatives: To provide stipends for employees and to pay for intervention and recovery programs for students.

The district has allocated $7.5 million to give workers a one-time stipend this school year. Bracken said officials are still finalizing the plan. One proposal is to give a one-time payment of up to $1,000 to full-time and part-time employees who work at least 29 hours per week.

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APS increased its minimum wage this year, but did not authorize across-the-board raises.

Board chairman Jason Esteves said teachers are working long hours in the virtual setting.

“I think it is important that we acknowledge them for their effort,” he said. “Even though we are working from home, it’s a lot more work for those employees.”

The spending plan also includes $10 million for intervention efforts to help students catch up from learning loss caused by pandemic disruptions. APS classes have been held entirely online since mid-March, and officials have acknowledged that some students have fallen behind.

The district also plans to spend more than $1.6 million to prepare for school buildings to reopen, potentially in January. That will pay for additional cleaning supplies, protective equipment and hand sanitizer.

The district’s traditional and charter-run schools will receive additional dollars, and the money also will pay for technology upgrades and other district costs.