The state of Idaho is set to receive $51 million from the education jobs bill, but local school districts will be able to decide how to spend it.
Gov. Butch Otter and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced Friday the amounts each district will receive. Schools districts will get money based on how much the state already has given them this year -- larger school districts get more; smaller ones less.
The largest, Meridian Joint School District, receives the greatest share under the allocation table, $5.9 million. Boise School District will receive about $4.6 million.
The money comes with strings attached. Districts can only use it to pay salaries and benefits of teachers and administrators, as well as restore furlough days. Schools cannot save the money in reserve accounts, nor can they pay for district-level staffers. Officials have 27 months to spend it and must contact the Idaho Department of Education by Sept. 3 to accept the money.
Otter told district officials to be wise with federal funds in a letter released with the allocation table. "I must highlight these funds are one-time in nature," wrote Otter. He also asked school officials to utilize the funds to keep classroom sizes down. "I strongly urge districts accepting these funds to focus on preservation of student-teacher contact time," he said.
When it was first revealed that Idaho would receive $51 million of the total $10 billion available in the jobs bill, Otter said, "While I am leery about Congress continuing to spend beyond our grandchildren’s means, I realize that Idaho schoolchildren will be repaying this debt no matter what decision I make today.”
State lawmakers cut the public schools budget by 7.5 percent -- $128 million -- during the 2010 legislative session. The total cuts for schools would have been higher if Luna hadn't called on the Idaho Land Board, which manages the state's reserve accounts, to release $22 million to shore up district budgets.