Thursday, August 12, 2010

The "Jobs Bill"...What does it mean?

Over the past few days, the media has reported the passing of the federal "jobs bill" aimed at saving education positions lost during recent budget cuts. Just yesterday, two media outlets called to ask about my thoughts on the matter. So, what does it mean for Augusta County?

Unfortunately, the information from the federal government has not trickled down to the VA Department of Education thus far. All that we know is the Commonwealth will receive approximately $250 million to help avoid layoffs or to add teachers back to classrooms. According to the US Department of Education, this new funding will save 3,800 jobs in Virginia's public schools.

The following is a summary of key provisions and requirements in the Education Jobs legislation:
  • States must apply for funding within 30 days of enactment. Approved state applications must be funded within 45 days of enactment.
  • Funding to states is allocated using the same formula as last year's State Fiscal Stabilization Funds.
  • State Departments of Education may set aside up to 2% for administrative costs.
  • Funds must be distributed to school divisions using either the state's established practices or by using the Title I funding formula.
  • Funds may only be used by school divisions for compensation, benefits and other expenses necessary to retain existing employees, to recall or rehire former employees, or to hire new employees. Funds may not be used for general administrative expenses.

While any funding to support education is welcomed, this money comes at an awkward time. First, Augusta County Schools begins the year on Tuesday, August 17. At this point, our staffing is established and all students have been assigned classes. Hiring teachers right now could be disruptive to school and student schedules since it would require a "reshuffling" of class assignments.

Secondly, our budget for the 2010-11 school year was adopted during the spring with no promise of additional money from the federal government. When the money is received, school divisions may need to adopt revised budgets in order to take advantage of the additional funding.

Finally, there is no indication that this money will be available for years to come. Once the money is spent, we could find ourselves in a position to cut staff once again due to decreased revenues.

More information related to this new legislation becomes available each day. Once clear guidance is provided from the US DOE and the VA DOE, we will be able to develop a direction for spending the money in a manner that will benefit students in Augusta County.

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