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September 1, 2000

Governor Ryan Awards $4.8 Million Illinois FIRST Grant to Cobden

COBDEN -- Governor George H. Ryan today awarded the Cobden School Unit District 17 a $4.8 million Illinois FIRST school construction grant for the construction of a high school.

"Through the Illinois FIRST program, we have nearly doubled the state's efforts to improve the physical facilities in which children learn," Ryan said. "We are easing the burden on local property tax payers by using state funds to help create more modern environments in which teachers can teach and children can learn."

The school construction grant for Cobden will enable School District 17 to construct a new high school for 300 students in grades 9-12. The existing high school was constructed in 1923 and will be demolished. The High School Gymnasium and Junior High wing will remain intact and will be adjacent to the new construction.

Governor Ryan also announced funding for Freeburg Community Consolidated District 70, Dongola Unit School District 66, Junesboro Community Consolidated School District 43, and Sparta Community Unit School District 140.

Since its inception in 1997, the state's school construction program has provided nearly $1.4 billion in state funds to assist 251 school districts in every area of the state, including the 67 districts for which Ryan announced grants today.

Under the school construction program jointly administered by the Capital Development Board and the State Board of Education, school districts must secure a local share of construction funds before receiving any state grant funds. The grants range from 35 percent to 75 percent of eligible construction costs. Enhancements such as swimming pools, sports complexes and auditoriums are not considered eligible project costs and are excluded from any grant calculations.

Currently, only those projects that address emergency needs, crowded classrooms and old buildings are being funded.

Ryan's Illinois FIRST program added $1.1 billion in state funding to the program, which originally had allocated $1.4 billion in state grant funds. Local school districts have provided more than $1.5 billion toward school construction projects in their own areas. With local matching funds, the program over time will address some $5 billion in educational facility needs in Illinois.

"This program is a partnership with local schools," Ryan said. "It responds to local needs and local initiative."

The next deadline for grant applications to the State Board of Education is April 1, 2001.


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