But under the Obama administration’s education stimulus package, Mr. Lamborn, who needs every penny he can get, will receive hundreds of dollars less per student than will Dr. Bailey, who says he does not need the extra money.
As a result, some districts that are well off will find themselves swimming in cash, while some that are struggling may get too little to avoid cutbacks.
Still, educators are accepting the disparities without challenge. Utah, which stands to get about $400 less per student than Wyoming, says it is grateful for the money and has no complaint. There is widespread recognition that the federal money is helping to avert what could have been an educational disaster in some places.
Democrats in Congress decided to use the formulas to save time, knowing that devising new ones tailored to current conditions could require months of negotiations.
“These formulas were the best vehicle for getting these emergency economic recovery funds out to school districts as quickly as possible, to help them immediately stave off layoffs,” said Rachel Racusen, a spokeswoman for Representative George Miller, Democrat of California, who is chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor.
The education secretary, Arne Duncan, said that he, too, was aware of the disparities but that no formula was perfect. “In this case, people are just extraordinarily thankful for these unprecedented resources,” Mr. Duncan said in an interview. “So I’m aware of these disparities, but we’ve received zero complaints.”
Still, the occasional mismatch between educational needs and emergency financing can be striking.
North Dakota, which also has no budget problems, will receive $1,734 per student. California, which recently closed a $42 billion budget gap through July 2010 partly through deep spending cuts, will get $1,336 per student.
New York is a huge winner. With the nation’s second-largest budget deficit, the state benefits from a formula that sends extra money to concentrations of poor students, as well as one that rewards states for their own school spending. New York will receive about $1,724 per student, the most of any large state and roughly $400 more per pupil that than Connecticut and New Jersey.
The money in question is part of $97 billion to be administered by the Education Department under the stimulus law.
About $50 billion, which Congress labeled a fiscal stabilization fund, will flow to states based on a formula that takes into account population, as well as the number of 5- to 24-year-olds. The states have some discretion, but part of the money must go toward avoiding or reversing cuts.
About $25 billion will be sent to the nation’s 14,000 school districts for spending on poor and disabled students according to long-standing formulas. And Mr. Duncan will use $5 billion to reward states for exemplary systems.
In Wyoming, where fourth graders
in Uinta County District 1 have
laptops, times are not so tough.
In Maryland, Prince George’s County, which borders Washington, appears likely to receive less than $1,500 per student. “I can tell you we’re not complaining,” said John White, a spokesman for the county schools. His district had been planning to cut 1,000 of its 17,000 employees and to furlough others to save money, he said, but the federal money will reduce the layoffs and make the furlough unnecessary.
Things are also working out better for Mr. Lamborn, whose district is in Rich County in northeastern Utah, where 450 children of coal miners and ranchers attend four austere rural schools. The Utah Legislature, facing a deficit of more than $1 billion, was preparing to cut school spending statewide by 17 percent. Last week, it reduced that cut to 5 percent.
Even a cut of 5 percent may result in the elimination of a teacher or two, Mr. Lamborn said. He snorted last week when he read a federal guidance letter that said, “Spend funds quickly to create and save jobs.”
“We won’t be creating any,” he said. “We hope to save some.”
In a meeting last week, some educators questioned whether the district could spend the $1.5 million in new federal money wisely, without losing focus on its goals, which include improving adolescent literacy skills.