Despite the passage of a new federal jobs bill partially aimed toward saving teachers’ jobs, most school districts in Eastern Jackson County are taking a wait-and-see approach rather than hiring more teachers immediately. The exception is Lee’s Summit.

The $26 billion Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act of 2010 was signed into law by President Obama Aug. 10, following approval by both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. In addition to helping the Medicaid program, public school districts nationwide will receive approximately $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs caused by state revenue shortfalls. Initial projections show that Missouri will receive approximately $189 million. The federal funds are a one-time allocation. The legislation does not provide any recurring funding or future assistance.

The problem, however, is when school districts will receive the money and how it will be divided among the state’s 523 public school districts.

“How much money and how it will be allocated is yet to be determined,” said Paul Kinder, superintendent of the Blue Springs School District. “Currently, there are two different scenarios that are vastly different in their method of distribution, so it is very difficult to plan when there are no solid figures.”

Kinder said the other possibility is that funds could be used in what is called “maintenance of fiscal effort.” This means the additional funds could be placed at the state level to offset losses in funding in the 2011-12 budget. This would, he said, “plug the hole” for the state, but not increase revenue at the district level.

“Any dollars that we receive will probably not result in more teachers being added. The school year has begun and our budget, although very tight, has already been set,” Kinder said. “Based on the state declining revenue projections for the 2011-12 school year, we will need additional dollars just to maintain what we have right now without accounting for any growth. Any funds we would receive would be put into the 2011-12 school year to attempt to maintain our educational programs and staff.”

Independence Superintendent Jim Hinson agrees. He said the concern lies with not knowing how much and when the district could receive the money from the federal bill.

“I wish I had the answer, to know how much our school district will be affected by this,” he said. “But it is my understanding that the regulations as to how we can use this money have not even been written yet, and we have received no direction from DESE. We don’t believe we will see a significant amount of money to hire teachers or other employees. We are holding back to see what really happens because we don’t want to go out and hire teachers with money we do not have right now.”

The one school district that is not waiting is Lee’s Summit. Just days after the bill was signed, the Lee’s Summit School District announced it was hiring 10 new teachers for the 2010-11 school year. Although information is still preliminary, the district has determined through its own calculations that it will receive around $2.15 million. The new teachers will address staffing needs at the elementary level as well as in the Title I program, which helps poor children maintain academic achievement. In addition, combination classrooms in the third and fourth grades will be eliminated and at the middle and high schools, additional teachers will be hired to address academic support and intervention issues.

“We are grateful to receive this federal funding and to have this opportunity to positively impact our schools,” Lee’s Summit Superintendent David McGehee said. “The current economic crisis is the worst our district has seen in its 61-year history, and this federal stimulus law provides us with partial relief.”

Fort Osage Superintendent Mark Enderle said that whatever amount of funding the school district receives will be helpful. But for now, he said he will play the waiting game.

“When we were down at a DESE conference in early August, reference was made to any additional funding the state might get. It was said then that the state intended to bank to fill as much of the funding hole in 2011-12 as they could,” he said. “Because we have not heard anything, we have not done anything with regards to hiring additional people.”

Grain Valley Superintendent Roy Moss said he does not believe school districts will receive official answers as to how and when the funds will be distributed until after the 2011 legislative session begins in January.

“We are not sure if it will be distributed through the foundation formula on a per pupil basis or through Title I appropriations or in some other way. Until those details are clarified we public schools won’t know how it will affect us,” Moss said. “My personal opinion is that I don’t believe the government should be spending money that it doesn’t have. It seems appropriate at the present time, but I don’t believe it will have a long-term positive effect on our state or our country.”