Jobs Fund Should Bring $119,000,000 to Oklahoma Schools

Post date: Aug 14, 2010 3:07:18 AM

Congress just passed a law creating an Education Jobs Fund to infuse millions of dollars into the states ($119 million to Oklahoma) to put teachers and support professionals back to work.

OEA was part of a conference call with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Thursday, and had a chance to listen to his comments and hear questions from around the country. Secretary Duncan said the focus of the money “….is on the individual.” The bill is designed to get teachers and support professionals back on the job.

While he admitted that it is legal to save the money for later, he encouraged schools to call back those employees who had been laid off. “The intent of the bill is to save jobs this year,” Duncan confirmed.

BEA Chief Negotiator Granger Meador points out that Congress and the administration let us down regarding the timing of the money. Our school year began August 10 and we may not see any funds until late September or even on into fall or early winter, long after school was in session and hardly a suitable time to be hiring back teachers. The original federal stimulus funding which has helped buffer us from the worst effects of the state's massive cuts in educational funding will run out this school year. Contrary to Duncan's take on the bill's intent, locally it would be wise to use the new Jobs Fund money to shore up our funding in 2011-2012 so that we can avoid additional layoffs and other cuts as we drop off a $2 million funding "cliff" when the stimulus funds run out.

Each state will decide whether to disperse its share by using its primary funding formula or through its Title I formula. Ninety-eight percent of the money is to be spent on salary, benefits and support services necessary to retain current employees, recall or rehire former employees, and hire new employees for educational and related services. Only two percent of the money can be held back at the state level for administrative purposes. Locally, only building-level school employees are to receive the money (not central office personnel), according to the bill’s guidelines.

Gov. Henry has until Sept. 9 to complete an application for the funds. While the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has until Sept. 24 to begin distributing the money, Duncan was hopeful his department could begin sending states their appropriation within two weeks of receiving applications. The DOE has posted it's initial guidance for the Education Jobs Fund online.