On Aug. 10, President Barack Obama signed the state aid bill providing $16.1 billion to states for Medicaid and $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs into law.* The emergency provision provided much-needed help to states — all of which save for Vermont are required to run balanced budgets — with yawning budget deficits. But, The New York Times points out, some school districts do not want to use their money to hire or rehire teachers.
As schools handed out pink slips to teachers this spring, states made a beeline to Washington to plead for money for their ravaged education budgets. But now that the federal government has come through with $10 billion, some of the nation’s biggest school districts are balking at using their share of the money to hire teachers right away.
With the economic outlook weakening, they argue that big deficits are looming for the next academic year and that they need to preserve the funds to prevent future layoffs. Los Angeles, for example, is projecting a $280 million budget shortfall next year that could threaten more jobs.
“You’ve got this herculean task to deal with next year’s deficit,” said Lydia L. Ramos, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest after New York City. “So if there’s a way that you can lessen the blow for next year,” she said, “we feel like it would be responsible to try to do that.”
The district laid off 682 teachers and counselors and about 2,000 support workers this spring and was not sure it would be able to hire any of them back with the stimulus money. The district says it could be forced to cut 4,500 more people next year.
The state aid bill, the piece underscores, gives states less than requested and ultimately not enough to prevent cuts: Taken together, the states are something like $120 billion in the red next year, meaning the states need to make at least $94 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts. Indeed, the bill has alleviated, but not solved, state budget woes.