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Colorado eligibility for Edujobs unclear

State officials are trying to figure out if Colorado is eligible for a slice of the new $10 billion “Edujobs” program, the State Board of Education learned today.

Colorado Department of Education

Colorado Department of Education

President Obama Tuesday signed the bill that will provide $10 billion in aid to school districts to avoid teacher layoffs and another $16 billion in extra federal support for Medicaid, which is expected to avoid or blunt additional state budget cuts around the nation.

“There is still some question whether we as a state qualify,” education Commissioner Dwight Jones told the board at its regular monthly meeting.

The teacher jobs money carries “maintenance of effort” requirements related to how much of their own money states have devoted to education. Officials are still trying to figure out if Colorado meets those requirements, Assistant Commissioner Vody Herrmann told the board.

“It’s a bit of a mess,” she said while also noting, “We’re optimistic” the uncertainty will be cleared up.

The Edujobs law sets three criteria for eligibility. It’s not clear if a state needs to meet only one of those or some combination.

The first standard requires that a state be spending as much on K-12 and higher education in the current, 2010-11 budget year as it did in 2008-09. “We’re not there,” Herrmann said, adding that most states probably won’t meet this standard.

The second requires that K-12 and higher ed spending in 2010-11 represent at least the same percentage of total state revenues as they did in 2009-10. Herrmann indicated the state may not be able to meet this requirement either.

The third requirement is the most complicated. If a state’s tax collections were lower in calendar year 2009 than they were in 2006, states are eligible if  they keep 2010-11 K-12 and higher ed funding at 2005-06 levels, or if their total 2010-11 education spending is at least the same percentage of state revenues as it was in 2005-06.

Herrmann said the State Office of State Planning and Budgeting is calculating whether Colorado meets the third requirement. Officials may also get some clarification Thursday morning, when Education Secretary Arne Duncan holds a conference call with state officials from around the country to discuss the law.

Nina Lopez of the department said it’s projected Colorado could receive $159 million from the Edujobs program. Some media reports estimate the bill could save 160,000 education jobs nationwide. State officials don’t yet have their own estimate how many Colorado jobs might be affected.