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Musical chairs in California’s schools?

Emergency federal aid meant to save thousands of teachers’ jobs in California could vanish into the gaping maw of the state’s $19 billion budget deficit, Shane Goldmacher of the Los Angeles Times reports.  A battle between federal and state elected officials is apparently heating up, with Democratic state legislators floating the concept of essentially re-purposing the money for other uses. While the federal money is dedicated to hiring back thousands of laid-off teachers, state officials are considering reducing California’s contribution to educational funding by an equal amount.

It’s a common practice in Sacramento, frequently referred to as back-filling, wherein money is shifted around between special purpose funds like musical chairs.

State Democratic leaders, under fire from teacher’s groups, say that schools would get more under their proposal, even if the federal money is merely used to backfill other cuts than what California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger offered in his budget proposal.

The Governor’s spokesman is quoted saying that the backfilling plan could end up being discussed in budget talks.

Federal officials timed the disbursal of the funds well into the new fiscal year to deny states the temptation to reduce their own education outlays knowing that federal funds were on the way. But in Johnny-come-lately California, where the state is now 50 days into the fiscal year without a budget, officials still have the wiggle room to pull the old pigeon drop on the state’s teachers and Washington.

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