SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's legislative leaders believe a special session will be held Nov. 17 to decide how the state will spend $101 million in federal money aimed at helping state school districts.
Those same leaders make it clear they do not yet know if Utah school districts will get a chance to spend the federal money at all.
Instead, some or all of it may go toward the expected deficit in the statewide education budget.
House Speaker David Clark told members of the GOP caucus on Wednesday to prepare to deal with the education budget at their next meeting.
Clark said they anticipate putting half of the federal money toward resolving the current deficit in the state education budget, then discussing what to do with the rest, perhaps sending it on to the districts.
On Nov. 10, lawmakers expect to receive a report on projected revenue for the remainder of the two-year state budget.
"We know there is a $50 million hole. Nov. 10 will tell us where to go next," Clark said.
The federal money, part of an emergency spending package signed by President Barack Obama in late summer, was originally expected to be used to provide jobs for an additional 1,800 teachers statewide.
As an example, early estimates were that the Davis School District could receive nearly $11 million in unexpected help this year.
Then state lawmakers announced they believed that using the money to address a statewide education problem fit the designs of the federal legislation.
House members say it is also possible they will work on issues connected to the second half of the $101 million when lawmakers start their 2011 session in January.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said the Senate has not made up its mind on how to spend the money.
Handing over one-time funds to districts to hire teachers creates problems in long-term budgeting, so the money may go toward a statewide problem, he said.
"That's what fiscal restraint is all about, isn't it?" he said after a meeting of the Senate as a whole.
Gov. Gary Herbert has already applied for the federal money, and, technically, the dollars will be sent to the schools as lawmakers decide a course of action.
Legislative leaders said they have met with educational leaders to talk about the plan for the rest of the year.
Herbert's opponent in the governor's race, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, believes the federal dollars should go directly to the classroom.
Rep. Sheryl Allen, R-Bountiful, is Corroon's running mate.
"The special session should have been sooner so the schools would get the money," she said. "The Corroon campaign opposes the idea that all the money would go to covering the deficit."
A Herbert spokesperson confirmed it is likely the special session will be called on the same day lawmakers have planned an interim meeting in November, and that acting on the education money will probably be the only item on the agenda.