Federal Dateline

AASA’s Top 10 Stimulus Questions

by Noelle Ellerson

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes more than $100 billion in education funding for America’s public schools and the students they serve.

AASA’s -Advocacy and Policy Team has been working to provide the latest stimulus information to the association’s members. One of our most successful and well-received efforts was weekly economic stimulus webinars.

The webinars provided a unique opportunity for AASA public policy staff to present up-to-the-minute stimulus details and answer AASA members’ questions.

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AASA responded to all of the submitted questions, more than 300 of them, covering everything from timelines and implementation to allowable uses and reporting requirements.

Popular Queries
Some topics were more popular than others. Here we answer the Top 10 Stimulus Questions — those submitted most often.

No. 1:Will there be the ability to supplant Title I and IDEA funds? Can we supplant with the State Fiscal Stabilization Funds?

No supplanting of Title I and IDEA funds is allowed. The underlying statute and regulations apply, and they do not permit waivers to supplant. The U.S. Department of Education also has been clear on this point. The state stabilization money, however, has no supplanting restrictions. Supplanting and maintenance of effort do not apply to the state funds. This is new money that is not subject to any underlying statute.

No. 2:Will the Title I and IDEA stimulus funds occur only in FY09, or will they be available again in FY10? What happens in FY11?

Districts are slated to receive the first half of their increase this spring and the second half this fall. The funds are counted in FY09, but can be obligated over both years. All stimulus funds are treated as supplemental appropriations to the FY09 budget year. Schools must obligate 85 percent of their education stimulus dollars by Sept. 30, 2010. As for what happens in 2011, no one is 100 percent sure.

We will have to work together to advocate for funding levels to increase, or at least remain flat, after the stimulus funds are spent.

No. 3:Regarding the IDEA 50 percent funds, can we use that money to fund special education teacher units that we normally fund with local dollars?

Federal special education dollars must be spent on special education. That being said, the 50 percent provision permits the reduction of state and local general education funds that have been subsidizing the shortfall of federal and state special education funding. Your district is allowed to reclaim your local effort in special education up to an amount equal to 50 percent of your federal increase, provided you use those local dollars for any activities authorized under ESEA.

Specifically, it is not federal special education money that is reclaimed. You are reclaiming state and local dollars that you can use for any purpose in ESEA. If you can justify this expenditure on staff under ESEA, it would be appropriate.

No. 4:Can the governor move State Fiscal Stabilization Funds around so there is no net gain for public school districts from the SFSF?

Yes. We expect some to do that. They are required, though, to provide the higher of 2008 or 2009 state funding levels. The law clearly requires the governors to spend 81.8 percent of the state stabilization funds on education. That being said, the decision of whether to make the 81.8 percent additional funding over original budget allotments lies with the governor. Work with your state associations to help the governor, legislature and state education agency understand the importance of maximizing the flow of funds to the local level.

No. 5:Can we reduce our state and local effort for Title I and IDEA?

Yes, under certain conditions. Section 613 of IDEA permits districts to reduce local effort by up to 50 percent of the annual increase in funding. Section 9521 of Title IX of ESEA permits reduction in local effort for natural disasters and a precipitous decline in state and local revenues.

No. 6:Can we buy equipment or make renovations with IDEA funds?

Yes. Section 605 of IDEA permits purchasing equipment or altering facilities to make them more accessible. Ask your state about requesting a waiver from the U.S. secretary of education.

No. 7:If a school district has Title I schools in school improvement, must part of the Title I Stimulus funds be set aside for public school choice and/or supplemental educational services?

Yes. If they are in school improvement, 20 percent of stimulus funds must be set aside for public school choice and/or supplemental educational services. Underlying statutes and regulations apply to the stimulus funds, for both IDEA and ESEA.

Staff Hiring?
No. 8:Can we use the stimulus funds to hire staff? Can we retain or rehire a non-Title I or IDEA teacher with stimulus funds?

You can use stimulus funds to hire/retain staff. As one-time funds, once the stimulus dollars are used, the financial responsibility for funding these positions will fall to the districts. If you use Title I or IDEA stimulus funds to hire/retain positions, remember two things: they must be Title I or IDEA positions and cannot be positions previously supported with local dollars. Supplement/supplant will apply. When it comes to retaining/rehiring non-Title I or IDEA teachers, you can only use SFSF funds.

No. 9:When will the Race to the Top grants be available for application?

Applications for these funds will be available in June 2009. We are expecting the first round of awards to go out in October 2009 and the second half to be awarded in spring 2010. The Race to the Top funds will follow the usual grant award process.

No. 10:Where can we access the webinar materials?

All of AASA’s stimulus resources, including the slideshow presentations and full Q&A for each of the webinars, are available to AASA members at www.aasa.org/StimulusQA.

Noelle Ellerson is a policy analyst at AASA. E-mail: nellerson@aasa.org