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Feds to California: Prove 'Maintenance of Effort'

Could California's final round of stimulus funding for public schools be in peril?

Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's deputies received word from honchos at the U.S. Department of Education that they are taking seriously allegations raised by educators and community groups that his proposed K-12 budget falls short of meeting the required "maintenance of effort" provision in the federal economic-stimulus law.

The department is giving the governor's team until March 26 to respond to the allegations that are laid out in great detail in this letter. Maintaining a minimum funding level for K-12 is a condition for states to receive money from the stimulus program's State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.

With California slated to receive roughly $200 million for schools in the second phase of the fund (that money is flowing to some states already), this is potentially devastating news. The state is grappling, yet again, with an enormous budget shortfall that is expected to deal more blows to already-battered school districts.

This follows the disappointing news that the state fell short in the first round of the stimulus program's Race to the Top competition, failing to make the list of 16 finalists. If the governor is serious about applying for the second round, educators might be able to use this maintenance of effort issue to get more of what they want in a revamped RTTT application.

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