Federal bailout may help Bay Area teachers

August 5, 2010 6:50:37 PM PDT
The U.S. Senate cleared the way for $10 billion in emergency education aid to reach districts across the country before the start of the school year, saving or re-instating the jobs of hundreds of thousands of teachers.

The House still has to approve the bill, but that's expected to happen quickly; soon enough for school to start in San Francisco and that's a little over a week away.

Students at Lowell High School could be getting back some lost days, and maybe some teachers too.

Lowell High School teacher Matt Magsanay was laid-off in May; something he's come to expect.

"I've been a teacher three years, and each year I've been laid off," he said.

He was hired back part-time for the coming year and if the San Francisco Unified School District gets the $10-$12 million it expects from federal funds, he could be hired back full-time.

But the district says cancelling four furlough days would have to come first.

"Our priority is to make sure students get as much instructional time possible. So first we would want to bring back those four days that were cut, which means having the funding to reinstate the pay for teachers who've had to take four furlough days," Gentle Blythe from the San Francisco Unified School District said.

Oakland Unified laid-off 40 teachers this year because of its budget problems, but spokesman Troy Flint says the district is worried about using one-time funding to create expenses it can't afford later on.

"Once we know exactly what our allocation will be, the board will sit down with staff and determine how we can use it to help improve the situation for our teachers, whether that would be bolstering teacher's salaries, whether that would specifically be bringing teachers back that were laid-off," he said.

The $26 billion bill provides $10 billion directly to schools, and $16 million for state's Medicaid budget -- that is supposed to free-up state budgets to help save other public service jobs.

But San Jose says it will probably not help save firefighters jobs or re-open closed stations, and Oakland says it does not expect the bill to help save police jobs.

Magsanay says he's picking up tutoring jobs and making lifestyle changes to make ends meet. He'd love to be hired back full-time, and the lack of job security has not soured his love for the work.

"I really enjoy the profession, I like coming to school and working with the students. It's fun getting them fired up about the things I'm passionate about too. So it kind of outweighs all that," he said.

It's unclear how much of the $10 billion the state will get and each district in turn. The state said it's getting $1.28 billion for the Medicaid program.


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