Cong. Mark Schauer just doesn't get it. He told his audience last Saturday that the programs would start running through the school systems first and quickly because they already have their systems in place and the stimulus money will just piggy back on already existing plans.
Not so, says a superintendent of a small school district in mid-Michigan. He has listed some of his concerns in a letter to his Congressman, Dave Camp, and shares them with us.
1. The money is being allocated to schools through No Child Left Behind, NCLB or Title One (approximately 40%)
2. The state of Michigan is having significant problems with allocating current federal Title One money.
a. Many districts have not been able to access any Title One money for the current school year to date
b. Our district is only able to access 40% of our funds
c. The State Ed Dept has been downsized to the point they can't keep up with the demands of their jobs
Question: how are they going to oversee more funding?
3. Title One has strict guidelines on "supplement not supplant." The money, unless given with different guidelines, will not preserve current jobs. Currently I am looking at a layoff of 5-7 teachers due to the state budget crisis. The strict guidelines in Title I prevent me from "supplanting" to prevent a layoff. I will end up laying off needed classroom teachers and then hurrying to spend $100,000 of Title I stimulus money with little hope of spending it on a sustainable program.
4. As stated the 2008-2009 Title I funding that should have been flowing to districts was to be accessible as early as July but no later than September still is tied up in state bureaucracy. How can it be logically expected that the money might flow quickly and stimulate the economy in the near term?
5. The other 60% of the stimulus money to schools is to be distributed through the special education funding system, IDEA. This money also is earmarked and cannot be used to preserve jobs.
6. Special Education has a "maintenance of effort" clause that ties the hands of districts as to how the money is spent. Basically we cannot use this added money to offset costs and prevent layoffs because of the formula used to calculate maintenance of effort.
7. In most districts the IDEA money flows from the state to a regional ISD then to a local district. As you can see--needless bureaucracy.
If the feds are serious about stimulating the economy and either prevent job loss or creat new jobs then these funds need to follow the block grant funding process and remove all the regulation, red tape and bureaucracy.
With the state cutting funding for next year, we can put the money to good use to preserve jobs and improve programs.
That's one guy's opinion, but I figure if I have to choose, I will choose an educator rather than a legislator.