Federal dollars put laid off teachers back to work

By Julia Bruck - bioemail

ELDORADO, IL (KFVS) - Heartland schools get a financial shot in the arm thanks to the federal jobs bill.  Last spring southern Illinois school leaders were forced to lay off educators due to lack of state funds. But with the recent federal dollars, some of those teachers in Eldorado are back at the front of the class.

"That's awesome," Eldorado fifth grade teacher Kelli Morris told a student.

These days, Morris is full of positive words. That's because about two weeks ago, Morris learned she was headed back to her fifth grade classroom.

"I was just holding, hoping that something would come through, that I could get my job back here," Morris said. "This is where I love to teach."

Students apparently took notice of Morris's love. Last spring her, then fifth graders, launched a letter writing campaign. Each letter addressed to state lawmakers.

"I think you guys should work together Democrats and Republicans form together to make one big problem solving team," Former fifth grader Hunter Davis said.

But Morris is not back in the classroom thanks to Illinois state lawmakers. Instead, its votes on Capitol Hill that has Morris back in the classroom and helping her more than 20 students with math.

"Right now we have four (fifth grade) teachers," Morris said. "If there would have been two, the class size would have been double."

Eldorado Superintendent Gary Siebert says in total, the district received more than $536,000 in federal money. The money allowed the school board to hire back nearly 10 educators. Siebert says the dollars also helped with student transportation.

"Help pay a bus driver salary out of that, we probably would have tried to cut another bus driver and run double routes," Siebert explained.

Back in Morris's classroom, students pack up their bags and get ready to head home. But since the federal dollars are just a onetime shot of help, Morris doesn't know if she'll have a job next fall.

"I'm worried about the next year and the year after that," Morris said.

Superintendent Siebert says the federal dollars will help get the district through this year. But says if the state continues to delay payments, the district will have to make cuts again, which could be even deeper.

Copyright 2010 KFVS. All rights reserved.