Castor: Stimulus is 'going to keep teachers teaching'
If there’s still uncertainty that Florida schools will get their share of the $787 billion federal stimulus package, somebody forgot to tell U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. Castor, D-Tampa, was at Tampa’s Chamberlain High School today, touting the hundreds of millions of dollars that the stimulus will funnel to Tampa Bay area schools.
“The amount of money provided to education (in the stimulus) is larger than the federal Department of Education budget,” Castor told the Gradebook. “These are historic levels. They are going to keep teachers teaching. And then they’re going to help us transform our long-term economy by investing in students.”
As for Florida getting snagged by the MOE requirements, Castor said, “I’m very hopeful and optimistic that we will obtain a waiver.”
With President Obama on the verge of signing the package into law today, the scramble is on to figure out how exactly it’s going to help Florida’s hard-hit school districts. The package is slated to send up to $3.6 billion to Florida’s K-12 system over two years, including hundreds of millions that can be flexibly used to patch massive holes in district budgets next year.
Still, nobody’s breathing easy. The money isn’t recurring. It’s not likely to undo past cuts. It’s still unclear exactly how much will go to K-12 (because community colleges and universities will also get a share of the stabilization fund portion of the stimulus), exactly where it will go within K-12, and what strings are attached. Even under a best-case scenario, Florida will still face big cuts in school spending.
“We don’t want it to be a false hope out there,” said Hillsborough schools lobbyist Connie Milito. “It’s a lot of money. And it will be a big help. But it can’t solve the total problem of the revenue shortfall.”