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MEA leader: Rescind layoffs with federal money

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POSTED March 28, 2009 5:06 a.m.

Could some financial relief be on the way for public schools?

Ken Johnson, president of the Manteca Educators Association, believes so in the form of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

This is being called the largest ever federal investment earmarked mostly for education.

“As you know, California will be receiving $8.9 billion from the federal stimulus package,” said Johnson at last Tuesday’s Manteca Unified school board meeting.

The funding is expected to be paid out over the course of the next two years, in turn, helping blunt the effects of the $9.3 billion cuts suffered by California public schools over the next 18 months.

“It won’t take away all of our pain, but it will help stop the bleeding,” he said.

California is expected to receive $1.3 billion to help supplement the existing funding for special education. Of that amount, $3.7 million could go to Manteca Unified – allocated in two installments, April and November – to make up the difference in what it receives from the state for special education.

The district spends about $2 million from its general fund.

Johnson offered a suggestion to the school board.

“This drain on the general fund can be stopped by using the $1.85 million that you will receive in April for special education,” he said. “That means you can use the $2 million from the general fund to rescind layoff notices and maintain salaries.”

Johnson indicated that an additional $1.5 billion will go to California for Title 1, including about $1.8 million for Manteca Unified scheduled for distribution in two installments.

“Lodi Unified is proposing to use its Title 1 funds for staffing at Title 1 schools, much like we do at French Camp School,” he said. “This plan has reduced layoffs (at Lodi Unified) from 375 to 175.”

The federal stimulus funds also include nearly $5 billion in State Fiscal Stabilization Funds. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, by law, is required to use 81 percent of these funds for education, according Johnson.

“These monies are designed to allow local school district to use immediately in preparing for next year’s budget as well as the other 50 percent for 2010-2011 school year,” he said. “The purpose of these monies is to prevent layoffs and cuts to education.”

As to how much Manteca Unified will receive has yet to be released. “But it will be quite substantial,” Johnson believes.

And while the governor has been allowed to use these funds for education at his discretion, Johnson noted that he agreed, after pressure from the California Teachers Association, to use this funding to backfill the cuts to education from the state budget.

“Kindergarten- through- 12th grade funding will be restored in proportion to cuts made from both the Revenue Limit and Categorical funded programs,” he said.

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