School districts learned Wednesday how the Maine Department of Education plans to divide $38 million in federal money that’s meant to save teaching jobs over the next two years.

Portland, South Portland and Scarborough schools are in line to get the largest allotments, according to a list that was e-mailed to district superintendents Wednesday afternoon.

The three districts must submit applications to receive as much as $2.6 million, $1.2 million and $1.1 million, respectively.

Portland’s sizable allocation surprised Superintendent Jim Morse, who reduced his payroll by 45 positions this year, despite the need for additional teachers in several areas.

“That’s really good news,” Morse said. “We’ll be thinking strategically about how we can maximize the use of that money, especially because we face a $4 million reduction in state and federal funding next year. This $2.6 million, used wisely, will help us meet the needs of Portland schools over two years, not just one year.”

Morse said he’ll meet with School Committee members in the coming weeks to determine how Portland’s share of the money might be used.

Some of it will likely address crowding in the city’s 10 elementary schools, including third-grade classes at Clifford and Presumpscot that have about 25 students each, he said. Some of it also could be used to hire one-on-one aides for newly identified special education students.

“These are positions that would involve bringing back some of the people we let go last spring,” Morse said.

The money will come from a $26 billion jobs bill that Congress approved two weeks ago in an effort to save thousands of school positions across the country.

Maine’s more than 200 districts must submit applications to the state by Sept. 10 explaining how they will use the money during the current school year or in 2011-12, according to an e-mail from Angela Faherty, commissioner of education.

Gov. John Baldacci will require all school districts to report how they use the money on their websites, in response to President Obama’s call for transparency in the use of federal economic recovery funds.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]