Stimulus Money to Flow to Nebraska Schools Next Year
August 23, 2010 - 2:13 PMNebraska school districts will get a $59 million boost from the federal government to use next school year, a budget cushion that could help stave off an unknown number of job losses.
Gov. Dave Heineman, a vocal critic of the latest federal stimulus package, announced Monday that the state had to take the money because it would have been distributed even if he had turned it down.
"Governors had no choice," Heineman said. Asked whether he wished the state wouldn't receive the money, Heineman called it a hypothetical scenario and wouldn't say.
Nebraska Education Commissioner Roger Breed said the money could lessen the number of job losses in K-12 education next year through layoffs and attrition. But the extent of the help, he said, won't be known until lawmakers decide how much total funding to give school districts. That won't happen until next year, when lawmakers approve an overall school-spending plan and a bill that dictate how the $59 million will be distributed.
Breed said school districts had begun planning as recently as three weeks ago in the expectation that they would not be receiving additional stimulus money.
"The fact we now have an additional $58.9 million available is, I think, by and large a plus" that will affect districts differently, Breed said.
The $58.9 million is part of a $26 billion jobs bill and signed into law by President Barack Obama two weeks ago. Democrats have hailed it as a way to keep teachers from being laid off this school year in states hard-hit by the recession. Republicans have called it a giveaway to teachers unions and an example of wasteful Washington spending.
Using the first round of stimulus money, Nebraska lawmakers early last year were able to more than double the original, planned increase in school aid to schools. The stimulus money boosted school budgets both last school year and this school year. Nebraska state government has a two-year budget cycle.
Because that stimulus money is being used this school year, and districts and the state don't now face fiscal crises as severe as those in other states, officials decided it was best to use the money next school year when stimulus money was originally planned to run out.
The new round of stimulus money is "an opportunity to mitigate the cliff effect next year" of running out of money from the first stimulus package, said Sen. Greg Adams of York, chairman of the Legislature's Education Committee.
A fiscal cliff-fall is still expected to occur, however. Asked whether the state would increase school spending enough to completely make up for the loss of the larger, first round of stimulus money, Heineman said it was highly unlikely.
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