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School districts can spend Edujobs cash just about any way they want

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Aug. 20, 2010 at 9:15 am with 1 Comment »
August 20, 2010 1:37 pm

In the continuing search for details about the $206 million in education jobs fund money that will start flowing to the state’s 295 school districts next month, I asked federal officials about so-called anti-supplanting rules.

That’s the language placed in most federal education appropriations to prevent states from replacing state money with federal money. The point is to make sure federal funds are to enhance support of schools, not simply replace money that otherwise would have flowed from the state.

But the anti-supplanting rules in the education jobs proposal (called Supplement, Not Supplant or SNS) apply only to states. There does not appear to be anti-supplanting rules that apply to the local school districts. This was confirmed by technical staff with the federal Department of Education.

The department wants the money to be used quickly and wants it to go toward school building jobs – rehiring laid off staff, preserving existing staff or hiring new staff. But because the money can be used on existing staff, spending it that way would presumably free up dollars already budgeted from existing sources – mostly state appropriations and local levy money.

So what can districts do with those freed-up dollars? Anything they would normally spend money on including the things that the program specifically prohibits the states to do such as fill rainy day funds or pay down debt. It could also be used for a purpose the federal dollars cannot be used for _ central administration.

This was done so that districts could have flexibility and be creative with the money, department staff said. And the department hopes it will be used to immediately boost education and preserve school-based jobs. But staffers acknowledged that districts could act differently even if the feds hope they don’t.

Both the state and local districts must also meet so-called maintenance of effort rules (know as MOE). That assures the feds that states at least spend as much for schools as it did before the federal money flowed. The rules, however, are not expected to hamper how the state’s districts spend the money.

The rules for spending the money are pretty generous. It can be spent on any school-based employee for anything related to compensation, including bonuses, pay raises, in-service days, pensions, student loan repayment assistance, transportation subsidies and childcare expenses.

But the lack of anti-supplanting rules means even these broad restrictions don’t apply once the federal funds replace and free-up state and local money. This may not be what the politicians touted when they voted for the money. But it might be good news for school districts that do not have laid off teachers to rehire and are reluctant to add staff with one-year-old money.

Leave a comment Comments → 1
  1. I can see how this might frustrate those who were misled that it would be strictly spent on saving teacher jobs… but I also think it’s best to do it this way since it’s next to impossible to deal with the unique budget circumstances of each district. With all the different manner of funding, cutting, and appropriating dollars, adding anti-supplanting language would just tie the hands of some districts and prevent them from using the cash, creating an unfair burden.

    It’s much easier at a broader level like the state to enforce such rules.

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