‘Funding cliff’ looms as stimulus money runs out

The situation is compounded by a reluctance to raise taxes in many states.

In Florida, freshman Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s budget for fiscal 2011-12 would cut state education funding for K-12 schools from $17.3 billion to $16.5 billion, a decrease of about 5 percent. The end of $872 million in stimulus money would boost that cut to roughly 10 percent compared with the current year.

The combined weight of those state and federal cuts would force Florida’s Volusia County School District to cut an estimated 900 employees, said Margaret A. Smith, the system’s superintendent. The 62,000-student district has cut 1,500 positions and $75 million from its budget in the past two years.

Further cuts will hit programs in art, music, and physical education, as well as extracurricular and sports programs, she said.

More on education funding:

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In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich has proposed increasing state education funding for K-12 schools by 1 percent to 2 percent for each of the next two years. The evaporation of federal stimulus money will mean a net decrease of 5 percent to 6 percent below current levels, said David Varda, the executive director of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials.

Of about $100 billion in total education-focused stimulus money, about $79 billion was devoted to K-12 programs. The biggest chunk went to help states restore school programs cut because of the recession. Smaller portions went to special-education programs and federal Title I programs for poor children.

The stimulus money also paid for competitive grant programs aimed at fueling innovative reforms, most notably the $4.35 billion Race to the Top program.

But the vast majority of the money was designed to save jobs. The U.S. Department of Education has estimated that the stimulus money saved some 368,000 school-related jobs during the 2009-10 school year.

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