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      In midst of budget cuts, NASA grant helps fund summer program

      Rio Grande Valley students could soon go to the moon and back, in the safety of a classroom of course, through a summer program funded by NASA.

      It's something districts said couldn't have been possible without the help of a grant from NASA.

      It's just a normal day in Daniel Garza's 7th grade science class.

      There's no talk of education cuts, but teachers are faced with that reality every day.

      Legislators are looking to cut at least 5 billion dollars from public education.

      It's a cloud that looms over Texas school districts, but fortunately in the Valley there's a shining light peaking through.

      "With the partnership, we like the extra help especially with the budget cuts," said Monica Kaufmann, a science coordinator at McAllen ISD.

      NASA is granting 750 thousand dollars to seven Valley districts in the span of four years to fund a science summer program.

      "It's not going to be a cost to the district, and that's what's important. It's a partnership with NASA and the importance they feel science plays in the education piece," said Kauffmann.

      Teachers will be paid 100 dollars a day for teaching the summer program.

      They'll choose from four science topics including girl science camp, astronomy, rocketry and engineering.

      In McAllen ISD alone, the program will serve almost 500 students.

      It's a big boost to the area considering students could use the extra help.

      "Science across the state has always been lower in all grade levels," said Ann Gails, a science teacher and department head.

      According to the 2010 TAKS results, only 25 percent of fifth graders statewide met the standard in science, and only 12 percent of eighth graders met the standard.

      "The more hands on they do, they make connections and that in itself will help raise scores," said Gails.

      That's exactly what school officials hope will happen with the help of the NASA grant.