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Race to the Funding Cliff

With the two-year anniversary of the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act just a month away, that much-feared funding cliff for states and school districts is quickly approaching.

So it seems fitting to take stock of which states have already burned through most of their stimulus cash, and which still have a sizable chunk left to spend.

So who's approaching the funding cliff first? Iowa. According to the latest data from the Department of Education, as of Jan. 14, the Hawkeye State has just 6 percent of its stimulus funds left. Also burning through their cash rapidly are Arizona, with 13 percent of funds remaining, and California, with 14 percent left. All of these states, like most in the country, are still facing big budget problems. Iowa, for example, is poised to cut all state funding for preschool for 4-year-olds.

Click chart for larger view

States with the most stimulus money still socked away include Wyoming, with 67 percent of its money left; Texas, with 53 percent; and Alaska, with 52 percent. This should come as no surprise since they're all energy-rich states that weathered the recession much better than other states.

To take a look at your state's stimulus balance, see the handy chart that accompanies this post. An important caveat, though, as you look at this chart: Race to the Top money is included in these numbers, so states that won look as though they have a lot of stimulus cash left compared to non-winners. So keep that in mind when you see that Delaware and Tennessee (first-round winners) have a lot of their stimulus funds left.

There's nothing wrong with quickly spending down stimulus funds (that's what the money's there for) or saving the cash for a rainy day. But eventually, the money needs to be spent or they will lose it. Title I and special education dollars must be spent by Sept. 30. School improvement grants can sit around until 2013 under some circumstances. Competitive grants, such as Race to the Top and the Teacher Incentive Fund, have longer shelf lives.

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