TRENTON, N.J.—With the news that New Jersey will receive nearly $270 million in federal money to spend on saving teaching jobs, many of the state's unemployed educators are waiting to hear whether they'll be rehired.
Under the bill passed by Congress, the money must go toward rehiring laid-off teachers or to ensure that more won't be let go before the school year begins.
According to estimates, the money is enough to cover every laid-off teacher in New Jersey, but that doesn't mean the state has to rehire them.
The Christie administration on Wednesday said it was still looking into how to distribute the money and is talking to federal officials about the impact the one-time infusion of money will have on schools.
Although Christie has criticized former Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine for using stimulus money to balance the budget, the Republican governor will apply for the jobs money in order to keep control of it, Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said Tuesday.
The state would still be eligible for the money even if the governor chose not to apply for it, but the U.S. Department of Education would then be in charge of doling it out.
According to the New Jersey Education Association, about 3,000 teachers were laid off as a result of the $819 million Christie slashed in education money for the 2011 budget year, which began July 1. Another 7,000 teachers retired - about twice as many as usual in a year, the NJEA said.
The president's Council of Economic Advisers estimates 3,900 teaching jobs in New Jersey will be saved by the money.
NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer said it will up to the districts whether they rehire laid-off teachers, rehire retired ones or look for fresh faces.
"We don't think the governor has the authority to tell districts how to use the money other than to tell them to hire people for positions already lost," Wollmer said. "Even if it's a short-term infusion, it's good news."
However, since the start of the school year is so close, it may force districts to scramble to get teachers back.
"It's very late in the year to be hiring teachers when classes are already established," said Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District assistant superintendent Cheryl Dyer. "And we really can't prepare for anything until we know there's money coming to our district."
Bridgewater cut 65 positions. Some teachers were hired back when others retired or went on maternity leave, but the majority were laid off.