WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Much-needed federal dollars will start flowing to schools in three states in the next few weeks as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The U.S. Department of Education has approved funding of just under $5.5 billion for three states -- $4 billion for California; $1.4 billion for Illinois; and $85.4 million for South Dakota.
"The state of Illinois is acting quickly to take advantage of every federal recovery dollar available to us," said Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who received word this week that the state's application had been approved.
California school districts can apply online to the state Department of Education. Officials hope to have money to specific school districts by May 11. As of Monday, 257 applications had been filled out.
"I will continue to fight for every available dollar to Recovery Act funding and am committed to sending those dollars quickly out into our schools, into our communities and into our economy," California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said.
Teachers in California have been protesting massive education layoffs as the state struggles with a $42 billion budget deficit.
The Recovery Act money is the largest portion of federal government stimulus for education and gives states the most flexibility to spend in ways they think most effective. However, there are restrictions:
-- The states must hold their education funding for 2009-11 to the same amount as in 2006. That is meant to make it difficult for states to transfer education money to other areas and then use the federal dollars to fill the gap.
-- The states will have to rigorously account for how the money is spent, such as providing the U.S. Department of Education with the number of jobs that were saved. They also will have to meet other criteria.
-- More than 80 percent of the money has to go directly to education, while the rest can be spent on other government services, such as public safety.
In Illinois, Quinn said the entire amount would go toward education.
Three more states -- Maine, Mississippi and Utah -- have submitted paperwork to receive Recovery Act money. The Department of Education said the money could be distributed to them within two weeks.
Some education stimulus money was sent to all 50 states on April 1 under Title 1, which helps school districts with low-income families, and under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.