Summit schools won’t see federal funds for teacher jobs |

Summit schools won’t see federal funds for teacher jobs

SUMMIT COUNTY – The federal government will provide $10 billion to keep teachers in America’s classrooms as school budgets shrink, but Summit won’t see any of the money.

On Aug. 10, President Barack Obama signed off on the Education Jobs Fund program (Ed Jobs) to help school districts that have been shedding teachers and other staff to make ends meet. The U.S. Department of Education will distribute the funds to states based on the size of their student populations, with Colorado scheduled to receive $160 million.

But because Summit School District doesn’t receive as much funding from the state as most other districts, none of the money from the new federal pot will fund teacher positions locally.

In Colorado, school funding comes from local property taxes, state taxes and local vehicle registration taxes. Local property taxes stay inside each district, and then the state supplements those funds district-by-district to ensure equitable per-pupil funding statewide. Districts with relatively small populations and high property values (like Summit, Aspen, Clear Creek and Gunnison) receive little, if any, state funding. Districts with big populations and low property values receive much of their funding from the state.

Earlier this year, the state cut 2010-2011 operating budgets in most school districts by 6.35 percent due to declining revenues. But because Summit receives so little state funding, the withholding of all state funds only resulted in a 4.67 percent cut locally.

“They couldn’t reach in and take our property taxes from us, because they don’t have the authority to take the local revenue,” Summit’s assistant superintendent Karen Strakbein said.

When the state received notice of the new federal funds this month, it divvied them up to restore a portion of the funding it had cut earlier this year. The small handful of districts that did not receive the full 6.35 percent cut didn’t get a slice of the pie, because the state had taken away proportionately less from those districts to begin with.

The roughly 170 Colorado school districts that will receive funds must use them to pay existing teachers and other employees, rehire laid-off staff and/or hire new employees at the early-childhood, elementary or secondary levels. The vast majority of Colorado districts will receive a sum in the amount of 2.9 percent of their total operating budgets.

Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Education estimates the funds will support 160,000 education jobs.

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