The economic-stimulus package that Congress passed two years ago preserved hundreds of thousands of jobs in the nation’s public schools but, with the economy still sputtering, the future of many of those positions remains in jeopardy. [Hat tip to Commissioner Holliday via Facebook]Here's some thinking about working through the end of the added federal education funding Kentucky has received during the current, very tough economic times.
What are the main funding supports Kentucky has received from the federal government?
State fiscal stabilization funds were the biggest education slice from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. States were able to use those dollars to replace general funding to education. In Kentucky, we used that money to avoid reducing total state P-12 funding in 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11.
Title I and IDEA funds were also beefed up by the 2009 ARRA, allowing schools to add some educators to work in those important programs.
The 2010 EduJobs bill added some further funding, designated for districts to use on keeping and adding staff.
Will it look like as those dollars disappear in 2011-12?
Kentucky's share of the fiscal stabilization dollars will be gone. That means the state budget will need to rely fully on state revenue. So far, the state budget provides a slight increase in total P-12 funding for next year.
The Title I and IDEA added resources will be likely also be gone. I haven't seen a summary of how those dollars have been expended, but it makes sense that districts would be planning to use them fully. Ideally, districts will have understood that these were temporary dollars to allow temporary jobs and be ready to drop back to earlier funding levels.
EduJobs funding will be going, but probably not quite gone in most districts. All the superintendents I've talked to mention working to keep some of those dollars available to protect against trouble in future years.
So, does that mean we're nearly out of the woods, and next year will be comfortable?
First, while total state funding is slated to grow next year, that total (quite rightly) includes payments for educators' retirement and health care. The dollars that reach districts for salaries, supplies, and other costs will go down a bit, and that will feel like stringency for schools, teachers, and students.
Second, the state budget adopted last year assumed an improbably low estimate of how many students Kentucky would have in average daily attendance. As a result, the SEEK fund does not have enough money to provide full funding to all students. The resulting shortfall means districts will receive less than promised this year, and they are likely receive less than promised again in 2011-12.
And third, local funding may still be heading into trouble. Most districts rely heavily on property taxes, but property values are not reassessed every year. We may still have several years where assessments decline to reflect the troubled housing market and other economic setbacks.
Overall, I'm trying to remember that Kentucky education has not taken the devastating levels of cuts now occurring in some other states. I'm also trying to remember that, even if we've been hurt less than some places, this economy is still hard work even here in the Bluegrass.