UPDATE: The state's largest school district will use most of its share of federal jobs funds to eliminate five of seven furlough days during the 2010-2011 school year, including three classroom days at the end of the year and two staff development days. According to an article in the Idaho Statesman, Joint School District 2, serving the Meridian area, will also will reinstate long-term disability and full life insurance benefits.
The Idaho Education Association, which represents more than 13,500 education employees statewide, applauded the move. “I have taken part in at least four conference calls with U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan over the last few weeks in which he has outlined the intent behind the distribution and use of these funds,” IEA President Sherri Wood noted in a letter to local education association presidents this week. “In a nutshell, this law is intended to get people back to work and to stimulate the economy.”
“The Secretary has stated more than once during these calls that this law is intended to save jobs in the current school year,” Wood added. “He has further stated that if salary cuts or furloughs were imposed or agreed to at the bargaining table, that those should be covered before districts carry over funds for the 2011-12 school year.”
In an August 20 letter announcing the allocations, Gov. Butch Otter wrote, “I must highlight that these funds are one-time in nature and strictly limited for the salary, retention, hiring, or rehiring of teachers and other student support personnel. You will have 27 months to use these funds at the district level.” Otter added that he urged districts to use the money to preserve student-teacher contact time; that districts should consider spreading the funds out over the next two school years; and that districts must confirm their acceptance of funds no later than Friday, September 3.
How else will the funds help teachers across Idaho? One immediate indication came from Homedale, which canceled a $300,000 supplemental levy vote just six days before it was to be held. Homedale now expects to receive $232,723 from the jobs fund, which will be used to trim the number of employee furlough days planned for the 2010-11 school year and to add six school days back into the calendar that had been cut, Superintendent Tim Rosandick told the Idaho Statesman.
Other Idaho school districts and local teachers unions are now discussing how to use the funds. (Click here for a district-by district list of the money available.) Congressional leaders and the National Educational Association were instrumental in advocating for swift passage of the funds so the money could be used to get educators back on the job as soon as possible. Yet for most Idaho districts, the jobs fund money will patch only a portion of the historic cuts made last year, so education advocates will be watching closely to see how and when districts use the funds.