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BoE gets breathing room
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The Effingham County school system learned last week it likely will receive more than $2.1 million in federal funding to direct toward staff salaries and benefits.
The expedited passing of the Education Jobs Fund released $10 billion for strapped states and school systems to use for k-12 employee salaries and benefits, which the government anticipates will save as many as 160,000 jobs. After taking 2 percent allowed for the state, the state
Department of Education distributed $315 million among its 180 school systems using the Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula, which accounts for a district’s student population. 
“Of course the systems that had larger numbers of students received more and systems with smaller numbers of students received less,”
Effingham Superintendent Randy Shearouse said. “So that’s how they worked it out, which makes sense based on the fact that you have more teachers employed if you’re a (larger) system.” 
The DOE and the state Office of Planning and Budget are asking all the local boards to agree to use the funds between September and November of this year to avoid employing someone at the state for the next year, year and a half, to oversee the money.
“(The Education Jobs Fund) is giving control to local boards of education to decide how this money should be spent,” Shearouse told board members.
As they wait for more guidance from the DOE as to how the funds must be documented, the BOE office is weighing different scenarios of how to best use the money. Shearouse said the system likely will use the money in October and November to pay for salaries and benefits.
“In turn, that will free up some our funds from our local collections or collections that we receive from the state, basically freeing up money in the general fund,” he said.“(Teachers) won’t necessarily see that, because, actually you could use this money to supplant, at this point. They’ll just get their normal salary that month, just paid out of federal funds rather than local or state funds.”
But Shearouse said they also are looking at areas in need of additional staffing, such as technology, where they have lost and not replaced someone and where, with the all the interactive classrooms and the new Career Academy, the staff and students would benefit from having a tech person on site.
Another consideration on the table is to use the money to reinstate some of the five calendar reduction days for employees. 
“Certainly, though, if there’s something we can do, if there’s a way, I think giving back some would be a great thing for our teachers, our entire staff really, (who) were reduced by five days,” Shearouse said.
But, as more cuts loom in fiscal year 2012, the BOE office is hesitant to use general fund dollars the $2.1 million from the federal government would free up.
Shearouse said: “I’m (looking at the funds) very cautiously because they have also told us to prepare for 2012 a 2 percent or maybe a 4 percent reduction in state funds during that year. So I have to be cautious, because I know we’re going to need to carry some money into 2012.”