Unless the federal government shutdown lasts for months, the state Department of Education and Arkansas schools should be spared having to furlough any employees.

“We will not have to furlough anyone as to what we understand today going through at least December in the food service and through June of ’14 in the other programs,” the state’s commissioner of education, Dr. Tom Kimbrell, said in an interview today.

Kimbrell said grants for various federal Department of Education programs such as Title I (money for disadvantaged students) and IDEA (money for students with disabilities) are prefunded, with the money already allocated and available. Some of that money may arrive more slowly than under normal conditions, but he expects it to arrive. The state has carryover funds from fiscal year 2013 for its food service program and expects reimbursements to come later when the shutdown ends. “We’re in pretty good shape, we know, through December,” he said.

Arkansas public schools are in a similar situation. “I don’t anticipate schools having to furlough anyone. … We feel right now from the information that we’ve been provided that school’s going to go on as it’s been going on,” he said.

Kimbrell said the department came to the conclusion that it would be OK this morning. That assurance came after contacts with the federal Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture, which funds food service programs, and the state Department of Finance and Administration.

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Steve Brawner

Steve Brawner

Steve Brawner is a freelance journalist and contributor to Talk Business & Politics. He is also a syndicated columnist in 10 Arkansas newspapers. You can email him at brawnersteve@mac.com or follow him on Twitter: @SteveBrawner.