Obama's jobs plan could ease Iowa City school cuts

BY ERIC MOORE | OCTOBER 05, 2011 7:20 AM

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The American Jobs Act might help Iowa City schools avoid faculty cuts.

White House officials released a "Teachers Jobs at Risk" report Tuesday, which would support nearly 400,000 education jobs across the country through federal funding for K-12 schools.

The program originally projected 280,000 jobs to be at risk in the coming year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said during a press conference call Tuesday.

Iowa City School Board member Tuyet Dorau said the district has not had to cut teachers yet. She pointed to previous stimulus plans such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and a decrease in district schools' extra money or "solvency ratio."

But Dorau said she was unsure whether the district will be able to avoid cutting staff in the future.

Dorau cited the Iowa Legislature's decision for 0 percent allowable growth as one factor contributing to monetary troubles in schools.

"[Zero percent growth] has already put us in a difficult situation …" she said. "You never make up the loss of allowable growth."

She said the real effect of the bill on Iowa City schools, as well as on Iowa in general, would depend on how the state reacted. She said past stimulus dollars had "no net increase" for the school because the state used the money for taxing.

"Given the uncertainty of where the state is right now, we're not quite sure what's going to happen," Dorau said. "It's really going to be a matter of figuring out what our priorities are and how we're going to fund those priorities."

During the conference call, federal officials discussed details of the bill President Obama sent to Congress roughly three weeks ago.

Duncan said the bill would affect every state if passed, adding he believes education "is the greatest investment we can make."

"Today is obviously not the first time you heard about this proposal, and it won't be the last because we definitely need the government to act," he said.

Duncan said the intent is for the money to act as one year of teacher salary. Officials project 4,100 of these jobs would be in Iowa.

The report states the White House feels even states will smaller enrollments will be significantly affected by the funding.

Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said students need "the best education possible" to succeed.

"Especially in this economic climate, it is critical for our future that all Iowans receive a quality education in order to grow our economy at home and compete in the global marketplace," he said.

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