Friday, March 13, 2009

Part 1: What is happening with teaching jobs?

Today will begin a 5 part series on the state of teacher employment in the US and what we are hearing from around the nation. We will initially focus on the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund because that is supposed to be the critical element that will help states and districts prevent teacher layoffs.

I was invited to listen to the U.S Department of Education phone call that talked about what states had to do to get these funds and it is fairly simplistic. They need to submit a request and they get two thirds of the money. This money is supposed to do two things – stimulate the economy in the short term and improve education for the long term. After the states receive the initial push, they have a few months to put together an application for the final one third of their money.

But the money still has to get out to the school districts and that is a major concern. This Friday is supposed to be the big Friday the 13th in California as 10,000 teachers are expected to be told they don’t have a job next year. Will this money prevent that bloodbath? On a smaller scale in Massachusetts, they are trying to hold off in anticipation of state funds.

But what I have not seen is actual plans on how this will actually work. Also looming on the horizon is that the website from which all money flows may not be able to handle the stress. That could create an even bigger mess as states scramble to keep people employed yet can't actually get access to the money.

Last but not least is Governor Sanford of South Carolina who, like most Americans today who get a windfall, want to pay down debt using 30% of his stimulus dollars. The problem is that South Carolina has the second highest unemployment rate at 11%. Does that mean that schools will get shortchanged that 30%.

Probably the most interesting part of the US Department of Education call the other day was that the SFSF dollars are there to make states whole when it comes to education funding. So the question came up but was not really answered - because the funds are to help states maintain spending, if states didn't actually cut their education budget because they cut deeper in other areas, can they still get the money? The answer seemed to be no - which would really stink for those states who made education a priority in their budgeting process.

So with those types of questions out there, it seems like a worthy enterprise for me and my staff to keep a watchful eye on what happens over the next week or so. Hopefully you will tune in to see.

For Monday – did California get hit on Friday the 13th? Will the money machine crash? Are all the teaching jobs gone? Tune in to find out!

Series on What is happening with teaching jobs:
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

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