Heads up – Congress is discussing moving “idle” ARRA funds from Title 1 and IDEA to the general Stabilization Fund by the end of July. The definition of “idle” is unclear – although it would appear to be any funds that are not obligated regardless of whether they have been distributed to districts.
An article in Politico last week revealed that the House is maneuvering to find more funds for teacher pay – but is running into resistance. A more detailed follow up piece in Ed Money Watch reviewed how this might actually work.
“As of May 28, 2010, all IDEA funds had been obligated to states. The remaining unobligated ARRA funds include $1.4 billion for Title I, about $1.4 billion for Pell Grants, $250 million in Statewide Data Systems Funds, about $150 million in Teacher Incentive Grant Funds, and $38 million for Vocational and Rehabilitative Services. This total amount of unobligated funds, around $3.2 billion, doesn’t come close to the $23 billion requested for these purposes in previous version of House and Senate legislation.
To make up the rest of the difference, any legislation would have to redirect already obligated (but not outlaid) ARRA funds into a fund specifically meant for teacher salaries and benefits. Not including SFSF, about $21.9 billion in ARRA education funding has yet to be outlaid, including roughly $8 billion in both IDEA and Title I. This amount is much closer to the $23 billion that was requested for the Education Jobs Fund by the House and Senate.”
Essentially they may rewrite the rules more than halfway through the program.
The goals are laudable – making sure that we retain as many teachers as possible in very tough times. The original proposal called for $23 billion in additional funding specifically to help states and districts pay teachers in the coming year. This appears to have been scaled back to $10 billion – but even that is problematic given the climate in Congress.
Unfortunately this not only affects the students with the greatest needs it also penalizes schools and districts who have been using the full amount of time allotted in ARRA to plan carefully before acting.
There are no easy answers here – the budget crises at the state level are staggering. Kids are going to show to school in September ready to learn whether the economy is doing well or not.
Please encourage your congressional delegations to support the full second round of stimulus funding for education. Let them know that rewriting the rules halfway through isn’t acceptable and that both teachers and students with special needs need our support.