A funding scare with a special education program at Tullahoma High School hasn’t stopped the program's operations.
The Tullahoma High School work-based learning program experienced a minor scare this semester when a large source of its funding – The Workforce Innovation Opportunities Act (WIOA) – went through a state-mandated restructuring.
In the past, Tullahoma City Schools received approximately $36,000 a year in WIOA grant money, according to Transition Case Manager Kristi Freuchtl. But this year the state awarded the grant to another workforce development agency.
“The grant was given to another group … so that [funding] no longer exists [for us],” she said.
The grant funds allowed the school to pay the students in the program so that partner employers did not need to take on extra expenses while training the students in workforce development.
Without the funding, Fruechtl said, she had to resort to other means in order to make sure her students were paid.
“There were about three pay periods [without the funding],” she said, “so my students were still working, and I had to drum up donations to get them paid.”
Additionally, without the funding, she needed to find new “training sites” for her students which could afford to pay them.
During the break from grant funding, Freuchtl said several fast food restaurants – like Burger King, Captain D’s and Wendy’s – were a great help, as they could all afford to take on the work-based learning students to train and pay them from the company’s coffers.
“They employed the students and paid them,” she said.
Lady Luck was still on Fruechtl’s side when the grant recipient, South Central Human Resources Agency (SCHRA), reached out and offered to help continue funding the work-based learning program.
Fruechtl repeatedly thanked Jola Boyd of SCHRA for coming to her and helping the work-based learning program continue its work. After only a month and a half, Freuchtl was no longer relying on community donations to pay the students in the program – instead, she was submitting all the time sheets for her students’ hours to Boyd and receiving the students’ pay to give to them.
“I’m not the one who’s doing the grant anymore, they are,” she said. “They offered it to our students, so I just have to help gather time sheets and get information.”
While the original WOIA grant was for around $36,000, Fruechtl said the program isn’t receiving that much money anymore, and that’s perfectly OK for her.
She is receiving just enough money to keep the program up and running and allow her students to continue working in places they enjoy, learning the skills they will need in the workforce later in life.
For example, she said, one student is thriving at Stan McNabb Automotive working as a car detailer.
Bryson Collyer was originally shadowing Josh Byrom, of Byrom’s Body Shop, when Byrom noticed Colyar had an aptitude for detailing.
With the new funding source, Colyar and other students are able to continue to pursue their passions. While the program would have continued without assistance from SCHRA, Fruecthl said the students’ options would be much more limited.
“The program would still go even without the grant; it’s just that I would have to find employers who are able to hire these students, like Captain D’s - these fast food places.”
Because the SCHRA funding is available, however, there are many more doors open for her students.
“It just opens up more opportunities for us to put kids in fields that they’re really interested in trying on to see if it would be a good fit for them, employment-wise,” Fruechtl said.
Erin McCullough may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.