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U.S. funding to support education jobs

By Fili Sagapolutele PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, Aug. 24, 2010) - A little over US$8 million in new federal funding is being allocated to the local Department of Education under a new federal law - Education Job Fund - which aims to provide and to keep more educational jobs throughout the United States.

According to the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) distribution list, the "projected allocation" for American Samoa is US$8.3 million (or US$8,324,352), but no mention of estimated jobs to be funded, although allocation for states also provides for the estimated number of jobs to be funded.

ASDOE director Dr. Claire Poumele told Samoa News that her office has received notification of the new grant funding and the application has since been completed and forwarded to the Governor’s representative for federal grants for review before submission to the USDOE.

"We are all very excited and happy about this new grant that will greatly assist our Department of Education," said Poumele, who points out that a conference call was held Aug. 12 between the U.S. Secretary of Education and top education officials throughout the country to discuss the new grant funding.

"According to the conference call this grant money can be used to subsidize salaries of teachers, as well as administrators or any staff directly involved with the schools," said Poumele responding to Samoa News inquiries. She said the conference call also revealed that USDOE will expedite the processing of applications for this grant.

USDOE said in a national press statement on Aug. 10 that in order to ensure that states receive funding as quickly as possible, the federal agency will streamline the application process so that states can submit applications within days.

"The Department will award funding to states within two weeks of their submission of an approvable application," the statement says, adding that Congress approved legislation providing US$10 billion to support an estimated 160,000 education jobs nationwide. The bill has since been signed into law.

"With the support of the jobs bill, these educators will be helping our children learn instead of looking for work," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. "This is the right thing to do for our children, for our teachers, and for our economy."

The US$10 billion fund will support education jobs in the 2010-11 school year and be distributed to states by a formula based on population figures. States can distribute their funding to school districts based on their own primary funding formula or districts’ relative share of federal Title I funds, according to the USDOE statement.

In an Aug. 13 letter to governors of states and territories, Duncan says this fund requires that school districts use the funds to pay the salaries and benefits of teachers, school administrators, and other essential staff.

"The funds can be used to recall or rehire former employees, retain existing employees, and hire new employees to ensure that students receive vital educational and related services. These funds may not be used for general administrative expenses, overhead, or other support services by school districts," Duncan wrote.

"In order to minimize disruptions to our children’s education, we have developed a streamlined application process that allows States to access their funds quickly while ensuring accountability for the use of these funds," he said.

"I encourage you to submit your application as soon as possible, but no later than the statutory deadline of September 9, 2010," the letter states.

Samoa News has learned that this funding will be of great help for ASDOE in the news fiscal year especially with a 2 percent cut in proposed budget for fiscal year 2011, which goes into effect on Oct. 1, 2010. The cut is required under the budget call issued in June by the Budget Office.

As part of its application, dated Aug. 16 and signed by Lt. Gov. Faoa A. Sunia, American Samoa assured USDOE that the territory will use fiscal control and fund accounting procedures that ensure proper disbursement of and accounting for funds under the "Ed Jobs" program, including procedures to ensure compliance with federal cash management requirements.

American Samoa assured USDOE that the territory will reserve not more than 2 percent of its allocation for the administrative costs of carrying out its responsibilities with respect to Ed Jobs funds and will use all remaining funds to retain existing employees, recall or rehire former employees, and to hire new employees, in order to provide early childhood, elementary, or secondary educational or related services

Additionally, the territory will not use Ed Jobs funds, directly or indirectly, to:

American Samoa has given assurance to USDOE that it will provide, within 60 days of the date of the grant award, a description of how it will use the Ed Jobs consistent with federal laws.

Besides American Samoa the USDOE also allocated funds for the territories of Guam (US$20.32 million) and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (US$8.28 million).

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