Terry Stoops, director of education studies at the John Locke Foundation, sends out a periodic newsletter that is required reading for anyone interested in K-12 education issues in North Carolina. His latest includes a “CommenTerry” on the wisdom of using temporary funds for permanent jobs:

In August 2010, Congress approved the Education Jobs Fund. The so-called EduJobs bill provided $10 billion to states “to save or create education jobs for school year (SY) 2010-2011.” While many states expended their entire appropriation last year, a pre-existing law (Tydings Amendment) permitted school districts to carry over funds to the 2011-2012 school year. North Carolina school districts did just that. They set aside a substantial portion of state’s $300 million grant to fund teacher salary and benefits for the current school year.

How did we get to this point? In other words, who had the bright idea to give states temporary funds for permanent teaching positions? Leave it to the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to explain the logic…or ignore the issue altogether.

He then provides a portion of the transcript of a conference call between members of the media and Arne Duncan, President Obama’s education secretary:

Donna Blankenship: Yes. This is Donna from the Associated Press. I have a question about the next school year after this one. What are we planning to do in 2011-12 if schools still need money for teachers’ salaries?

Arne Duncan: Well, we’re focused right now Donna on this school year.

Donna Blankenship: Right.

Arne Duncan: And, we really wanted to avoid a huge catastrophe this year. As you know, the economy is slowly starting to bounce back, and we’re hopeful we’ll be in a much better spot next year. But right now as you know Donna, we just felt this huge sense of urgency. …

Donna Blankenship: Thank you.

This is not exactly aggressive journalism. As Terry points out:

Yes, it was disappointing, albeit not surprising, to see a member of the mainstream media capitulate to Duncan (twice!). Even so, Blankenship’s question was a legitimate one. Duncan’s answer was not.

He concludes:

Obviously, Democrats were in charge of the NC General Assembly (and Harrison was chair of the State Board of Education) when the state accepted huge sums of temporary federal dollars for public schools. Apparently, they also accepted Duncan’s disingenuous promise that they would not have to worry about “next year” because the economy was about to “bounce back.” Suckers!

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