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Florida gets additional $1.8 billion in stimulus funds for education

The federal government released $1.8 billion in stimulus money for education to Florida on Monday, two weeks after the state applied for a waiver required because the state underfunded education in previous years.

"The $1.8 billion Florida will receive today is part of the single largest boost in education funding in recent history," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. "Florida can now utilize these funds to save jobs and lay the groundwork for a generation for education reform."

Although the money is expected to plug holes in school-district budgets to save jobs, South Florida's school districts might still see layoffs.

"Contrary to all the rhetoric about 'it's there to save all these layoffs,' the reality is it's going to help us have less layoffs," Broward Superintendent Jim Notter said.

The Broward Teachers Union has criticized that stance, saying the district could cut spending elsewhere before eliminating jobs.

In Miami-Dade, the stimulus money may help avoid or minimize layoffs, said Richard Hinds, the district's chief financial officer.

"It'll go a long way toward solving the problem, but it won't cure all of it," he said.

School districts won't be getting the funds directly from Washington. Florida lawmakers, confident the state would get the money, allocated funds to shore up the education portion of the 2009-10 budget the Legislature approved last week. That meant legislators could tout a small increase in per-student spending in Florida. But they reshuffled – and reduced – other pots of education money to do so, leaving school districts with less money than they had last year.

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