As lawmakers around the country debate their states' budgets, they're staring over the edge of a massive fiscal cliff - the point where about $100 billion in federal stimulus money for education will run out.
The end of that money will compound states' severe budget woes and likely lead to thousands of layoffs and the elimination of popular school programs around the country.
The bulk of the money, part of $814 billion provided under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed in 2009, went to save the jobs of teachers and other school employees, as state and local revenue dried up during the prolonged economic downturn. Lawmakers in many states drew criticism for making deep cuts in state education spending and replacing the money with stimulus dollars, thus avoiding cuts elsewhere in their budgets.
States are required to have spent most of their education stimulus money by September, and most will burn through it by the end of the current academic year, budget officials say.
And while state economies are showing signs of life, tax revenue is not increasing fast enough to make up the loss.