Education’s less-than-certain windfall

There’s $10 billion for schools in the state aid bill Congress passed last month, but some school systems have reason to wonder whether they are going to see the money, reports. It sounded at first like the best of news for South Carolina. The $26 billion jobs bill passed by Congress earlier this month would send $143.7 million to the state, which has lost between 2,800 and 3,900 teaching jobs over the past two years. Instead, after taking a look at the bill’s fine print, state education officials found a flaw that could deprive them of that money. A set of provisions in the bill requires states to have kept up their level of higher education spending this year, something South Carolina did not do. “It appears to us that the only fix is going to be possible through Congress,” says Jim Foster, of the South Carolina Department of Education. Three weeks after the bill’s passage, several states are grappling with its ramifications. Sparking the confusion is language wedged into the U.S. Department of Education’s rules for allocating the money. While the provisions that could harm South Carolina were also present—and stricter—in the 2009 Recovery Act, the stimulus bill made it possible for states to ask Washington to waive those requirements. But last month’s jobs bill does not offer waivers, which means that those states that have made drastic cuts to higher education could miss out on the windfall…

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