By Connie Llanos Staff Writer | LA Newspaper Group/Daily News
►from another story: The Department of Education's inspector general reports that some states are using stimulus dollars to replace money they've cut from their education budget — despite instructions to the contrary.
When the Department of Education began releasing stimulus funds last April, it told states the money was to be used to boost funding for schools and colleges and protect key programs and jobs.
And from the get-go, the Obama administration's message to states was that stimulus funds earmarked for education are to "supplement, not supplant" state funding for schools and colleges.
“We're really focused on making sure states are using the stimulus money well," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan."But what we want to do is make sure people aren't playing games.”- National Public Radio | Weekend Edition Sunday | October 11, 2009
►also see: The Governor's veto message on SB 84.
10/14/2009 --The Los Angeles Unified School District will use federal stimulus money to make up for a recent $140 million cut in state funding - but officials said they'll feel the pinch next year.
The funding reduction, the equivalent of closing seven high schools, follows Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's weekend veto of a bill that would have temporarily retained special funding for school districts that serve low-performing students.
Those funds, totaling $400 million statewide, were initially taken away in July by lawmakers who argued that school districts could use stimulus money to make up the difference.
While LAUSD planned to use stimulus money this year to cover the gap, officials said they might have to accelerate the timing of cuts previously not expected to hit for another two years.
"This is a crisis averted but delayed," said Megan Reilly, the district's chief financial officer. "It creates a bigger hole for us next year."
The cut could mean the elimination of full-day kindergarten and arts and music classes, or further class size increases across the board as early as next year, instead of in the 2011-12 school year.
A vetoed Senate Bill 84 was designed to delay the $400 million in cuts to low-performing school districts, but Schwarzenegger said agencies could use some $355 million in accelerated stimulus money to cover virtually the entire shortfall.
The cuts follow a budget deal reached over the summer that called for funding of districts with the lowest performing schools would be cut by an amount equal to what they receive in Quality Education Investment Act money - grants given to California's most under-achieving campuses.
The $3 billion state grant program was created after the California Teachers Association sued Schwarzenegger over cuts in the 2004-05 budget.
While the cut leaves districts uncertain about their futures, the use of federal stimulus money at least allows them to get through the current school year without have to make significant reductions, said Stephen Rhoads, a lobbyist for school districts statewide including LAUSD.
Without stimulus funds, the state's lowest performing schools would have lost an average of $157 per student compared to an average of $16 per student in the highest performing schools, he said.
Still, Rhoads said the plan was another bandage for a larger issue.
"It's not like they are bailing out these districts. They're just fixing a problem."