The conference report of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has now been approved by both the House and the Senate, and the President is expected to sign it into law in Denver on Tuesday. At $787.2 billion and 1,073 pages, this enormous bill will affect state and local budgets for the next three years at least, but there is much still to sort out. (See White House link below for full text of the bill.)
Apart from the historically large dollar amounts in the bill, the bill also contains language authorizing the Secretary to waive maintenance of efforts and supplement-not-supplant requirements. These provisions had been requested by numerous states and school districts facing enormous shortfalls in state and local education funding.
The Secretary has made statements suggesting he will be reluctant to approve such waivers. Even with these waivers, nearly all of the direct federal support for education in ARRA will come in grants restricted to early childhood programs, Title I, and IDEIA.
Over the weekend, Governor Crist, Senator Nelson, and Senator Martinez all wrote letters to Secretary Duncan requesting his approval of such a waiver. (See the text of the Governor's letter at http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_politics/2009/02/crist-asks-feds-for-educaton-waiver.html)
In the case of Florida, the waiver will almost surely be necessary to balance the state budget in FY10. State budget projections are looking so bleak that state Sen. J.D. Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, has predicted that school districts would need to raise local property taxes by ten percent just to maintain the current minimal level of funding.
More on this from the Palm Beach Post:
Instead of raising local property taxes for schools, however, the Governor will propose four ballot initiatives that would effectively lower local property taxes. More on this from the Miami Herald:
While the main education strategy of the stimulus bill is to keep educators on the job, it also provides expanded safety nets for those who lose their jobs during the crisis. The bill makes changes in COBRA health insurance subsidies and unemployment benefits. In some school districts, complying with these new requirements and benefits may potentially affect budget planning and internal procedures. More on this from U.S. News & World Report:
While state legislators and school district leaders anxiously await operational details on ARRA, the White House is hosting full text versions of the bill itself, and inviting public comment: