The federal government has been in partial shutdown for three weeks now, affecting the flow of federal money across the nation. However, it looks likely that local schools will not be affected for the time being.
While public schools receive a bulk of their funding from the Georgia Department of Education, they receive federal money from the Department of Agriculture to support their meal programs. The USDA falls under the one of the nine Cabinet-level departments this has not received funding due to the shutdown, according to a report from the Associated Press.
The USDA released a press release to the state department of education that stated the department had already released January funds to the states and will provide funds for school meals until March.
Rome City Schools’ Superintendent Lou Byars doesn’t foresee any issues for the school system for the remainder of the year. Byars said any additional federal funds the schools receive are set aside a year ahead of time, meaning this year’s funds were gathered last year. Other than “no anticipation of funds being withheld this year,” Byars is not sure if next year’s funds will be affected.
During the Floyd County Schools Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Jeff Wilson expressed concern that the shutdown would be “financially devastating” to the school system. In a phone interview Thursday Wilson clarified saying due to talks and rumors he was referring to loss of funding to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The IDEA program supplies federal dollars to the school systems which pays special education teachers and programs.
“We hired those folks under the impression the feds would fund those position,” Wilson said. “We would take it out of our own funds to pay the teachers.”
He added he had not received any official news of special education funds stopping, but received an unofficial tip from someone who worked at the state level which is the basis for his concerns.
The Rome News-Tribune reached out to the Georgia Department of Education and asked if the IDEA funds would cease due to the shutdown. A spokesperson from the department stated “IDEA is funded through the U.S. Department of Education, which is not affected by the shutdown.”
The 2018-2019 partial shutdown tied the record for longest federal shutdown in history Friday tying the 21-day shutdown that happened under former President Bill Clinton.
The Associated Press contributed to this report