Stimulus and Schools

State Rep. Harry Brooks, Chairman of the House Education Committee, has opined via WSMV in Nashville that school systems should not use the federal stimulus funding for personnel.

That money can only be used for certain things, and lawmakers said since the money disappears in two years, it shouldn’t be used for personnel.
"If you were to use the money for a staff person, that staff person goes away in two years or you have to find the money to continue it," Brooks said.


That falls into the usual philosophy — with which I wholeheartedly agree — that it’s bad practice to use non-recurring funds for recurring expenses, as it just delays the problem — or creates a bigger problem in the future.   

But in this case, the stimulus is needed because tax revenues for the schools are down, due to the economic recession.  In Tennessee, schools are funded in large part by sales taxes, which are the first to fall in a recession.  What if the stimulus funds were used not to create new jobs (for which we would have to find a supporting funding source two years from now), but to avoid job losses among existing staff?

That, it seems, would fit with the intent of the stimulus — to keep people employed, so that they continue buying groceries, appliances, cars, and houses, which in turn strengthens the economy.

Most of the federal stimulus funds are designated for economically-disadvantaged students, or those in special education.  Thus, it seems to me that the most appropriate use would be to use those funds to continue programs like extended contracts, where teachers are paid a small stipend to do extra things like before- or after-school tutoring (of particular benefit to special ed or economically disadvantaged students).

This year, the State has already advised that 100% of extended contracted funding will be cut.  If the stimulus funds would allow us to continue these programs through two years until the state and local economies begin to recover, would that not be an acceptable use?

11 thoughts on “Stimulus and Schools

  1. Brooks is one of a number of Republican politicians (including a handful of Republican governors) who are currently bloviating about not taking stimulus money. I don’t believe that, in the end, any of them will stand in the way of stimulus spending, since it would be political suicide.

    If a CEO turned down a similar opportunity, they would be fired for failure of fiduciary responsibility to the stockholders.

    This is political grandstanding. “I was opposed but was forced to accept it.”

  2. NM, One must consider on the counterside of your argument that if you give this extra monies to personnel, will it be enough to fund the things you discussed above, the so called big ticket items? Probably not, and if it is enough the money would run out in two years. Most cars are financed much longer than that period. The most likely scenario, like tax rebates is some would spend it on big tickets, most would most likely just pay down debt. Either way, it doesn’t address another time bomb, lack of savings by citizens.

    The real stimulus will be in the form of road construction and other infrastructure needs where jobs will be created. They too will be short run but it might free up other monies at the State level to move some around to other areas near and dear to our hearts in the long run.

  3. Pingback: TrainyBrainy » Blog Archive » Posts about Special Education as of February 21, 2009

  4. No bloviating here. We have to learn to live on less when lean times come. Families do so why shouldn’t government? With that said I believe keeping teachers using the current “spending program” funds does make sense. We can worry about what happens two years from now in two years. The money is going to be spent for something (and I do not believe republicans will turn it down).

  5. The entire context of the Brooks story was not reported here. The context of the story centers on the conditions (not yet totally known) of how the funds can be used. In fact, it is not clear that personnel can even be paid for through the “stimulus” funds other than teachers in Title 1 programs or programs for “homeless” however that could still permit some teachers to be retained.

    It appears that funds may be available to install/enhance technology in schools which would be good and for building renovation but not for new construction.

    If the story is correct, it will not be up to Brooks and other representatives to decide how the funds are spent. From the story: “It is up to the state Department of Education to allocate the money to individual school districts.”

    Just wanted to put the story in total context.

  6. I understood, at least at some point during the revisions of the bill, that some of the school-allocated funds were intended for building improvements. Given that a firm was paid to assess our facilities and those findings estimated needs approaching $50 million, it would make more sense to assign non-recurring dollars to these already-identified needs. No one knows how long the economy will remain in the tank – it took more than a couple of years to get into this mess and it will likely take more than a couple to get out of it. Keeping that in mind, basic needs would be best addressed first. Kids can’t attend school in buildings that are condemned. Would not the preschool (which primarily services economically-disadvantaged and special education students) be the best place to start?

  7. There will be “pots” of money allocated for different things — buildings, special ed, Title I, etc. Naturally, the funds in each grouping can only be spent for that purpose, so it’s not a question of whether to spend on the preschool facility OR Title I, but what to do with the funds within each category.

  8. The school board has indicated several times through the past years that improvement to the SAB facilities will be done before improvement to the preschool facilities. Go figure that one out.

  9. Harry, the rationale for that is that we have to move the administration out of the building in order to make the necessary renovations for the preschool. That doesn’t necessarily mean a new admin building, but moving them somewhere just to get them out of the way.

  10. The SAB in portable buildings?? Surely you jest, Trina…

    I just could’nt resist that one… Sorry!!!

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