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Stimulus money puts teachers in layoff limbo

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Her union, United Teachers Los Angeles, has urged the district to make other cuts and use more of the stimulus money right away to save teachers' jobs. "The district is playing with people's lives," says president A.J. Duffy. "If they continue what they say they are doing, which is finding the fat, they could find the extra money," he says. The group is planning demonstrations in the coming weeks.

With a projected shortfall of $1.4 billion over the next two years, largely because of state cuts, the L.A. schools cannot avoid increasing class sizes and cutting some teachers, district leaders say. Without the stimulus, "it would have been twice as bad," says school board president Mónica García. More than 1,000 jobs are being cut from the administrative side, she notes.

The board plans to seek additional stimulus dollars that the US Department of Education will be handing out on a competitive basis to districts that pursue key reforms. "We didn't want to just preserve the status quo ... and we heard Washington say loud and clear ... 'We're going to be holding you accountable for results,' " Ms. García says.

For states to obtain one part of the stimulus designated primarily for education (called stabilization funds), they must submit an application to the US Department of Education explaining how the money will be used. California, South Dakota, and Illinois are the first states to have their applications approved. Almost $4 billion – $2.6 billion of it for K-12 – was released to California last weekend, for instance, and it can apply for another $2 billion this fall.

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