Federal Money for Public Schools — On-Hand but Undelivered.

More than two weeks ago, California received $1.2 billion of the roughly $4.9 billion in federal stimulus money for public schools – but the funds can’t be given to schools without legislative approval which could delay delivery of the money until May 9.

The $1.2 billion — $562.5 million for low-income pupils, $634 million for students with special education needs and $13 million for nutrition programs — is of major benefit to larger, urban school districts, which have the biggest populations of low-income and special needs students.

Turning the cash over to the state Department of Education, which, in turn, gives it to local districts, requires changes to the budget, signed February 20 by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Such changes come in the form of what are known as Section 28 letters in which the administration seeks legislative OK for the budgetary changes. If lawmakers take no action within 30 days, the changes automatically take effect.

“I am committed to spending (federal) Recovery Act dollars efficiently and effectively and to passing these dollars onto schools as quickly as possible to benefit students and protect jobs,” Schwarzenegger said in a statement April 8, the day before his administration applied to the federal government for the remaining $3.7 billion in federal funds earmarked for California schools. 

Unlike the money for lower income and special needs students, the $3.7 billion can be used for whatever purpose a school district elects, such as retaining teachers sent preliminary pink slips in March.

The federal government has pledged that money will arrive within two weeks of applications being filed. The federal government also said states should submit their applications for stimulus funds by March 31. California did not receive applications until April 1. 

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said the education spending request was being assessed along with a stack of other spending proposals for federal stimulus money submitted by the GOP governor to lawmakers on April 9.

He said that review was being conducted as expeditiously as possible.

Although the federal government recommends using the $1.2 billion for low income and special needs pupils for one-time costs, some districts, for example, plan to rehire special education teachers given notice.

Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest districts and nation’s second largest, would receive $360 million for lower income students and $168 million foe special needs students, according to the U.S. and California departments of education.

San Diego Unified would receive a combined total of $65 million for those two categories of pupils. Fresno Unified, a total of $55 million. San Francisco Unified $22 million and Sacramento City Unified $37.2 million.

Breakdowns of special education grants for each California school district are here. Allocations of lower income pupil money, known as Title 1, are here.



Filed under: Budget and Economy


  1. With more than 30,000 teachers receiving pink slips and nearly 10,000 school employees receiving layoff notices, the federal stimulus funds need to be released without any further delay in order to mitigate the impact of these job losses in our public schools. School districts are making decisions NOW about their financial health for the coming year, and about what further layoffs they must make. They do not have a crystal ball, and need the federal funds distributed immediately so that they can plan to do what’s in the best interest of our students.

    Comment by Robin Swanson — 4.17.2009 @ 10:29 am

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    Comment by MAGDALENASimon — 3.14.2010 @ 1:43 pm

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