Educational Editorial: Education Jobs Fund

The House Appropriations Committee of the General Assembly learned this week that Virginia has received $249.5 million from the Federal Government under the Education Jobs Fund.

Funds earmarked to save160,000 teaching jobs nationally has come at a strange time in the budget cycle. Teachers have been back in school for two months and students have completed their first six weeks.

With one third of the budget year in the rear view mirror, Chesterfield County will receive $12 million, Henrico County $9.6 million, Richmond $5.5 million and Hanover $3.4 million.

The law clearly prescribes that these funds are to be used for the salaries and benefits of those who support the classroom. We are already hearing proposals from school divisions to give bonuses, hire instructional coaches…or in some instances hire more teachers.

While school divisions are elated to get more funds on the heels of the worst budget season in history, the "gift" comes with challenges.

First the funds are available for two years and if you add more teachers, where will you get the money when the "Fed Funds" dry up? If no new positions are created there will be a fund balance and June 30 the general fund rolls back to the county or city.

The question is, "who will really get the balance?" There is also no prohibition, supplanting, about how the balance might be used. While local governments have been equally challenged by a difficult economy, perhaps this is an opportunity for school and county boards to talk about how they might use a one-time gift to help everyone.

Oh, it is also important to remember that short-term funds should never be used for long-term expenses.