‘Teacher Bailout’ not being spent on hiring teachers
Deep in the NY TIMES:
Given Money, Schools Wait on Rehiring Teachers
As schools handed out pink slips to teachers this spring, states made a beeline to Washington to plead for money for their ravaged education budgets. But now that the federal government has come through with $10 billion, some of the nation’s biggest school districts are balking at using their share of the money to hire teachers right away.
With the economic outlook weakening, they argue that big deficits are looming for the next academic year and that they need to preserve the funds to prevent future layoffs. Los Angeles, for example, is projecting a $280 million budget shortfall next year that could threaten more jobs.
“You’ve got this herculean task to deal with next year’s deficit,” said Lydia L. Ramos, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest after New York City.
“So if there’s a way that you can lessen the blow for next year,” she said, “we feel like it would be responsible to try to do that.”
The district laid off 682 teachers and counselors and about 2,000 support workers this spring and was not sure it would be able to hire any of them back with the stimulus money. The district says it could be forced to cut 4,500 more people next year.
In New York City, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg committed to no teacher layoffs this year in exchange for not offering raises. A spokeswoman said the city’s budget had already taken the federal aid into account.
In New Jersey, where about 3,000 teachers were let go in May, Gov. Chris Christie’s administration worries that the federal aid will only forestall difficult decisions later, and it is unclear how much will be spent immediately.
“It’s a real double-edged sword,” said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the governor. “This money will not be there next year, and we’re not going to get back up to the funding that they had previously been used to.”
A $26 billion federal aid package, signed by President Obama on Aug. 10, allocates $10 billion for school districts to retain or rehire teachers, counselors, classroom aides, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and others — with the remainder of the money directed toward health care for the poor, emergency personnel and other state purposes.
The education measure requires states to distribute the money for the current school year, but allows school districts to spend it as late as September 2012. It also allows schools to roll back furlough days. The education department estimates it could salvage about 160,000 jobs.
“We can’t stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe,” President Obama said last week. “That doesn’t make sense.”
Though preserving jobs will be good for the economy, it will disappoint out-of-work teachers and parents who have been expecting a surge in rehiring. Many districts, like Kansas City, Kan., face the likelihood of midyear cuts, and administrators will count themselves lucky to save jobs. In the nation’s fifth-largest district in Clark County in Las Vegas, administrators are eager to hire some teachers, though they wonder what they will do when the federal money runs out.
“We’re a little wary about hiring people if we only have money for a year, but we know that’s the intent of this bill,” said Jeff Weiler, chief financial officer for Clark County schools.
In Texas, Republican Gov. Rick Perry so far has rejected the new federal education dollars. Should he relent, Houston’s superintendent, Terry B. Grier, proposes to use $40 million to $70 million of it to extend the school day and year, and to hire tutors. He does not plan to rehire 414 people — including quite a few certified teachers — laid off from the central office staff.
“We can’t treat this money as if it’s a supplement to a jobs bill,” Mr. Grier said. “I want to put people to work to help children.”
Still other obstacles loom for districts, not the least of which is timing. School has resumed in many districts in struggling states, including Arizona, California and Illinois. Assigning new teachers and juggling classrooms could disrupt students. In California, the budget picture is further clouded by the state’s failure to pass its own budget for the coming year.
Even administrators in districts that start school after Labor Day have only weeks to rearrange class rosters. And with classes largely set in many places, they might more quickly deploy the money by hiring support personnel, like those tutors in Houston.
In Arizona, where most schools opened this month, nonteaching employees are more likely to be recalled. “It would be hard to add teachers this year,” said Paul Senseman, a spokesman for Gov. Jan Brewer. “But the funds could be used on any school-level position like counselors, after-school programs, aides, nurses or coaches.”
Teachers’ unions are strongly urging districts to use the money right away to keep class sizes manageable and to reduce the jobless rolls. “The intent is to help districts avert layoffs now,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Kids don’t have a pause button.”
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/18/business/economy/18teachers.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss