Back in early August, Pres. Obama signed a bill that allocated $10 billion in aid to school districts nationwide, aimed at staving off an approximated 160,000 teaching layoffs.
Recently, we exchanged e-mails with Amanda Anderson, the director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Education, and asked about how her state would be implementing the nearly $200 million of federal funding that they received from the Education Jobs Fund.
Tennessee’s set to receive nearly $200 million from the federal government due to the edujobs bill. Was that the amount that you applied for? Did you apply for more/less?
Tennessee was allotted $195,881,328 through the U.S. Department of Education. We knew that was the amount that we would be funded at.
How does the state plan on spending that money?
The dollars will actually flow through the state Department of Education to our 136 local education agencies, or school districts. Our school districts are allowed to then spend those dollars to retain existing employees, rehire former employees, or to hire new employees. Our school districts will be able to draw down their funds by October 1 and we have allocated those funds based on our state’s education funding formula.
Can you talk about any ways in which you know the money’s already being spent? I know Memphis has already started bringing back teaching aides that they laid off in the spring…
Yes, Memphis is a great example. They have decided to hire back teaching aids they had laid off in the spring. I also know, from speaking with other directors of schools, that many intend to hire back laid off teachers. I have heard less about hiring new employees.
Do you know if any districts are using the edujobs money for anything other than re-hiring recently laid-off teachers? Have any districts used the money to give raises to their teachers? Or spent it on professional development for teachers? Or given benefits to teachers who run after-school programs?
The school districts have not received the money yet. They will be able to draw down their fund beginning October 1, but again, I have heard less about hiring new teachers than I have about bringing back educators who had been laid off.
Will all $195.9 million be spent this year, or will districts keep some of that money in reserves for the 2011-12 school year?
All of the dollars have to be spent by Sept. 30, 2012. School districts will have discretion to spend, or reserve, the dollars as they see fit.
Do you believe districts should be spending all of the edujobs money this year, or do you think they’d be wise to save some in case of more financial troubles next year?
The funding is two-year funding and again, I think it’s at the discretion of the director of school on how the dollars should be spent. We are encouraging districts to spend wisely and understand that any positions funded with these dollars will need to be supported financially after the two years.
How is the state communicating with school districts on how much money they are getting and how they can spend it?
Yes. We’ve sent the school districts multiple communications on their allotted amounts and guidance on spending.
How do you think the edujobs money will affect teacher recruitment and retention over the couple of years?
I think the state will most likely see a small surge in the amount of teachers being hired; however, Tennessee was lucky in that we did not have the massive state-wide teacher layoffs like other states did as a result of budget shortages.
Will teacher evaluations play any factor as to who gets hired or rehired? (i.e., is last hired, last rehired?)
The hiring decisions are a local decision, so if that school district wants to rehire in order of the last dismissed, then that’s completely within their discretion to do so. They also would follow whatever negotiated contract they may have with their local teachers union.