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The federal stimulus package touted by President Barack Obama is estimated to provide $134 million to San Diego Unified. That’s welcome news in the middle of a budget crisis that has the school district scrambling to find more than $33 million this year and $63 million the next, freezing expenditures and weighing school closings.

But the money comes with strings attached, which means the dollars could be earmarked in ways that make it impossible to use them to plug the budget gap. (For more explanation on this phenomenon, check out this article.) And the numbers could still change as legislators hash out the federal package.

San Diego Unified spokesman Jack Brandais said the plan is tentatively expected to give schools another $20 million for special education, $49 million for new school construction, $50 million in matching funds for construction bonds, and an additional $15 million in funding for disadvantaged kids — the pool of money that the school board just decided to concentrate more heavily in some schools at the expense of others.

That means a huge increase in that last pool of funding: San Diego Unified got only $19 million in the funds last year, expected to get $24 million this year, and now will get $15 million more for a total of $39 million — a 79 percent increase in the funds over last year. It also looks like good news for the extensive reforms planned for special education, which require a lot of teacher and principal training.

There are few details. Brandais said the school district is still finding out more from the California Department of Education, which is still finding out from the feds, what exactly those categories mean and how the money can be used.

“We don’t really have any more information than what you see right here,” Brandais said.

EMILY ALPERT

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