From today's Times, an article about how districts around the state are spending federal stimulus money. I guess I was confused because I thought at least some of it was for capital spending. From the article:
"Washington schools will get an unprecedented federal windfall over the next two years — up to $400 million for special-education and low-income students.
The temporary influx of money is certainly welcome. School officials have long complained that the federal government doesn't give them what they need.
But the federal cash has also put some school officials in an awkward spot. The state budget crisis has forced schools to cut training and class offerings and lay off hundreds of teachers. The Legislature slashed $600 million from Initiative 728 funding, approved by the voters in 2000, to hire teachers and reduce class sizes.
So due to limits on how the new federal stimulus money can be spent, the additional money means many districts may wind up maintaining or improving services for some students while cutting programs for others."
Explaining it more:
"In other words, the Legislature slashed state funding for public schools that could be used broadly, and partially replaced it with one-time stimulus dollars from the federal government with a more narrow purpose.
The federal government did provide some flexibility.
School districts are getting a total of about $220 million in federal special-education money. They can use up to half of that amount to backfill cuts elsewhere in their budgets. Essentially, the new money allows districts to use some of the local money they now spend on special education for other purposes."
"The biggest issue with the federal money, aside from the restrictions on use, is that it's temporary.
If districts use it to hire new teachers, for example, what will they do in two years when the funding is due to dry up?
"All of that has to be weighed," Rosier said. "There are lots of complications for districts. How do you use the money in an effective way that doesn't set you up for real problems down the road?"
Indeed, didn't we have this problem with the Gates "transformation" money?
From Michael DeBell:
"DeBell, the board president, said he's not too worried about the federal money disappearing because Seattle's enrollment appears to be increasing, and that will bring in more state money.
"The federal money is working like a bridge for us to allow us to carry employees we're pretty sure we're going to need because of enrollment trends," he said."
No one should ever express any confidence in money for schools because it's never worked out long term. And have we solved these pending capacity problems?
(FYI, I had heard Facilities folks say publicly (and indeed I heard Harium say this at his community meeting) that even if the district HAD the money for portables, they couldn't get them because there's a nationwide backlog/shortage. I checked 5 companies around the country including one in Marysville. No such shortage or backlog. We have millions in our capital funds and yes, it would mean shifting or postponing projects but they've certainly done that before (ask SBOC). If we need portables to get through these capacity issues until the SAP is in action for a couple of years and we see how it all shakes out, this district should pony up and buy them. Do they want this SAP to succeed and for people to see real action being taken on capacity until closed buildings are re-opened or some other solution comes on-line or not?)