Half of stimulus money for schools goes to state

Last modified: 11/16/2010 12:00:00 AM
A special New Hampshire legislative committee voted yesterday to divide between schools and the state $41 million in emergency federal funding intended to protect teachers' jobs.

The joint legislative Fiscal Committee voted to give local schools half the money and use the rest for other state spending. Republicans tried unsuccessfully to keep all of the money for the state.

State Rep. Neal Kurk, a Republican from Weare, argued that the state has fully met its school aid commitment and needs the money to fill looming budget shortfalls.

'The decision leaves the state in a very significant budget hole,' he said after losing his appeal to keep the money.

Senate President Sylvia Larsen, a Democrat from Concord, countered that the money will help local schools and the property taxpayers who help pay their bills.

The total school aid distribution for this fiscal year will rise to $978 million from $957 million.

Federal education officials estimated the $41 million would save 700 teachers' jobs in New Hampshire, but a survey by school administrators last summer determined roughly 200 jobs had been cut going into the school year.

Christopher Clement, director of the state's Office of Economic Stimulus, said in a report to the committee that the state increased school aid by more than $100 million in the current two-year-budget, which fully funded its aid commitment.

He said the federal law requires schools to use the funds for pay and benefits and other expenses needed to retain existing employees, to recall or rehire former employees and to hire new employees. Schools that have excess funds at the end of this school year can use the money to hire new teachers through the end of September 2011, he said.

The state's tactic is not new. The state - with Gov. John Lynch's support - substituted federal education stimulus funds for state-funded school aid in the current budget. State tax money was freed up from being spent on school aid and used instead for other spending, including state aid to communities.

The federal law calls for the money to be distributed either to schools under the Title I formula - which target schools with high concentrations of low-income students - or through the state's aid formula. Not all schools receive Title I money.


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