Governor, Legislature agree on plan for federal Education Jobs Fund money

Thursday, August 19th, 2010 at 5:52 am by

Late yesterday, Governor Paterson and legislative leaders released a letter committing to approve a plan to allocate New York State’s $607 million share of funding from the federal Education Jobs Fund approved earlier this month by Congress and President Obama.  They also announced that the state has submitted its application for the funding to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

No details are available yet on individual district allocations; presumably those will be forthcoming very soon.

It is expected that the aid will be allocated primarily on the same basis as the state budget restoration for School Aid approved by the Legislature but vetoed by Governor Paterson.  That approach would reduce each district’s lump sum total aid reduction (the Gap Elimination Adjustment) by an equal percentage.

The federal law does permit state governments to retain 2 percent of the grant for administrative purposes.  There were also discussions exploring whether this federal aid could help restore funding for Teacher Centers.

By signing the letter promising to enact state legislation needed to allocate and expend funds, the Governor and Assembly and Senate Leaders seek to avoid the necessity of having the Legislature return to Albany before the start of the school year.

The expectation has been that the Legislature would not return until after the September 14 primary elections.

Also Governor Paterson has threatened to call the Assembly into special session in October, closer to the general election, to increase pressure on that chamber to approve his proposal for a property tax cap on school districts and local governments.

The agreement announced yesterday will permit the state to tell districts their allocations before the start of the school year.  However, the state will not be able to make actual payments until the Legislature and Governor approve an appropriation of the money.

Last Friday, the U.S. Education Department released initial formal guidance on how Education Jobs Fund money may be used.

That guidance makes clear that federal law permits school districts to use the aid in 2011-12, not just the current school year.

Although the Department expects and encourages districts to use Jobs Fund aid in the current school year, districts have until September 30, 2012 to “obligate” the money.  When used to pay employees (as the Jobs Fund money must be used), federal aid is obligated when the work is performed.

Yesterday, the New York Times reported on the worries of school districts around the nation for their fiscal prospects beyond the coming school year.

Over the weekend, the Buffalo News published an article covering many of the questions arising from the federal aid.

Also, last week Syracuse superintendent Dan Lowengard and I discussed the initiative on the statewide Capitol Pressroom radio show.

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