With classes about to begin, Illinois schools received word Wednesday that they will get $415 million in federal funding to save about 5,700 education jobs across the state.
The money will come from the Education Jobs Fund, a $10 billion fund that's part of a jobs bill President Barack Obama signed into law on Tuesday. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin announced Illinois' share Wednesday.
"America's economy may be in a recession, but America's classrooms cannot go into recession,'' Durbin said at a news conference at a high school on Chicago's South Side. "These children get one chance for quality education."
Illinois' budget shortfall means the state will still lose more than 11,000 education jobs. And Gov. Pat Quinn's office won't be able to distribute any of the federal funding for more than a month, Chief of Staff Jerry Stermer said.
The governor's office will decide how much each district receives through a state aid formula, Stermer said.
About two percent of the money may be used for administrative costs, and none may go to equipment or to pay state debts, Durbin said.
Because of the timing, school district officials must figure out a way to adjust budgets while classes are in session.
In Chicago, "a large hunk" of students started class this week, meaning the city's public schools will have big classes until the federal money comes in, Chicago Board of Education President Mary Lowry said.
"They have to prepare today, and today those dollars aren't in our pockets," Lowry said. "It is a very fluid situation."
Chicago Public Schools is projected to get about $100 million, Durbin said. The rest of the money will be spread across the state.
In Elgin, the largest district outside of Chicago, 1,000 of 5,000 education jobs were cut last school year, Superintendent Jose Torres said. About 440 teachers can return because of the education jobs fund, he added.
But class lists are already out in the district, and Torres said while he appreciates the federal help, implementing changes during school will be "a difficult task" for students and teachers who have already had a lot of stress.
"What we do need is some long term solutions from Springfield,'' he said.