Berkeley Unified School District Gets $2.4M in Stimulus Funds to Offset Budget Cuts

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday May 08, 2009 - 06:32:00 PM

State officials announced Saturday, May 9, that the Berkeley Unified School District will receive $2.4 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

The money is part of the $2.56 billion allocated to California school districts toward state stabilization funds. An additional $1.1 billion will be available in the fall. 

Berkeley Unified Superintendent Bill Huyett said the district had applied for its share under directions from the state Department of Education in April. 

“It’s a formula-based amount,” he said. “The federal government sent it down to the state, which handed it down to the school districts on an equitable basis.” 

According to the state education department, the allocation was based on an amount equal to cuts made to each district’s funding in the February 2009 state budget. In about a month, additional stabilization funds will be calculated to restore cuts made to categorical programs from the same budget. 

The funds are in addition to $1.6 million in stimulus funds the district received for services related to disabled and low-income children for 2009-10. (See the Daily Planet’s May 7 story.) 

Huyett said the amount allocated to BUSD over the weekend would “reduce the impact of budget cuts” in the district. 

“The thing we don’t know is what will happen in the elections next week,” he said, explaining that if the six initiatives don’t pass in California’s special elections on May 19, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger would make even deeper cuts to public education, estimated to amount to as much as $3.6 billion. 

“The money will certainly help in short-term improvements,” Huyett said. The purpose of the funds is to reduce staff layoffs, improve student performance and close the achievement gap.” 

Berkeley Unified was able to rescind the majority of its pink slips sent to teachers but is still planning to slash programs and lay off classified workers. 

Praising President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for their cooperation in distributing the funds, state Superintendent of Public Education Jack O’Connell said the funds would help the state education budget crisis. 

“These funds will have an immediate and noticeable impact on California’s K-12 and higher education systems by helping schools keep teachers and other important staff employed, by continuing our efforts to improve student achievement, and furthering our work to close the achievement gap,” O’Connell said. “While this is a brief respite for the education community, we should all recognize there are more tough times ahead.” 

To see how much state stabilization money a particular school district received, go to www.cde.ca.gov/fg/aa/ar