by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
The NC General Assembly is in. Federal EduJobs money is out. How will those in power deal with a state that is out of temporary federal aid for public schools? This is one of the many questions that legislators will have to answer before they leave town.
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.
In an August 10, 2010 conference call, Secretary Duncan provided an overview of the Education Jobs Fund Program for members of the press. His exchange with Associated Press reporter Donna Blankenship was the most revealing of the bunch.
From the U.S. Department of Education transcript of the conference call:
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.
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.
Days after the conference call, Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute picked apart Duncan’s non-answer. Hess wrote,
There are two problems with Duncan’s analysis. One, things aren’t going to be better next year. In suggesting they will be, Duncan was either disingenuous or uninformed. … Second, bailouts are making matters worse by making it more difficult for states and districts to rein in spending. Of the 34 states that had passed budgets by mid-June of this year, 23 had factored in federal "rescue" dollars. This means that instead of squeezing benefits, trimming formulas, or otherwise taking this opportunity to get their affairs in order, states were leaning on their members of Congress to funnel more borrowed bucks their way.
Nearly two years after Duncan’s conference call, Hess’s prediction about the economy was on the money. The economy did not "bounce back." There was no economic miracle, in North Carolina or elsewhere, that restored tax revenues to pre-recession levels.
As school districts exhaust the remaining EduJobs funding, State Board of Education Chairman Bill Harrison and various public school advocacy groups have demanded that the NC General Assembly increase the public education budget (and taxes) to make up the difference. According to the latest NC Department of Public Instruction figures, legislators would have to use state funds to replace, at minimum, $258.5 million in EduJobs carryover funds.
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!
The NC General Assembly’s "short session" starts today and the Republican majority must now find a way to clean up the mess left by their political rivals. In coming weeks, North Carolinians will find out how they plan to do so. Regardless of their specific course of action, the legislature must put an end to looking the other way when opportunistic Washington politicians and their shortsighted bureaucratic henchmen offer North Carolina a "quick" fix.
Bingo regulations rock!
North Carolina General Statute 14‑309.8. Limit on sessions.
The number of sessions of bingo conducted or sponsored by an exempt organization shall be limited to two sessions per week and such sessions must not exceed a period of five hours each per session. No two sessions of bingo shall be held within a 48‑hour period of time. No more than two sessions of bingo shall be operated or conducted in any one building, hall or structure during any one calendar week and if two sessions are held, they must be held by the same exempt organization. This section shall not apply to bingo games conducted at a fair or other exhibition conducted pursuant to Article 45 of Chapter 106 of the General Statutes.
Facts and Stats
School employee positions eligible for EduJobs funding included the following:
I would like to invite all readers to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes, concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina. I will publish selected submissions in future editions of the newsletter. Anonymity will be honored. For additional information or to send a submission, email Terry at [email protected].
Education Acronym of the Week
MOE — Maintenance of Effort
Quote of the Week
"22. Should we expect to receive these funds again in 2011-12? No, these funds are non recurring funds and the LEAs should not expect additional funds in 2011-12."
– NC Department of Public Instruction, "Education Jobs Fund Question and Answer," 2010.
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