Via Adirondack Daily Enterprise
Congress made a special appearance in Washington earlier this week. The emergency session was held so that congress could enact the FMAP bill or Federal Education Jobs Bill before the November elections. The purpose? To give Democrats what they hope will be some much needed pork spending to aide their national election difficulties this year.
Scott Murphy followed the DNC talking points without faltering. Capitol Confidential reported Murphy's statement:
The bill will help our local schools by staving off the choice between layoffs or local tax hikes. This is about setting priorities. I feel strongly that we should not be forcing our local governments to raise property taxes or choose mass layoffs of teachers.
Republican challenger Chris Gibson fired back:
This is about setting priorities, and priorities should be budgeted for. This is the first time since 1974 that Congress has not passed a budget. Without a budget you cannot set priorities, create jobs and rebuild our economy. Congress has merely increased our debt and deficit, and further hampered our economy's ability to recover.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise reports that many NY schools are skeptical that congressional Democrats latest boondoggle will provide any help for them.
Saranac Lake Central School District Superintendent Gerald Goldman said he thinks it already might be too late to have much of an impact.
"We already passed a budget, we already have staffing plans, we already have schedules done," Goldman said.
He said it looks like the funding will be restricted to retaining jobs, rehiring fired teachers or hiring new employees rather than adding to a district's fund balance or reducing its tax levy. Adding teaching staff this late in the game, however, with less than a month before school starts, is difficult because it's next to impossible to change class schedules once they have been set.
Goldman said one possible use for the money would be hiring staff to help with students in need, since a recent change in grading of state evaluations means more Saranac Lake students are falling in the range of kids considered in need of academic intervention. But he said he doesn't want to commit to a way the district will use the money until he knows more about it.
"I think the jury is pretty much still out on how useful it's going to be, if it's ever going to arrive here, if it's going to arrive and something else is going to be taken away," Goldman said. "You just don't know."
Tupper Lake Central School District Superintendent Seth McGowan said he's also concerned about not having enough information yet.
"This is like playing tennis with invisible balls," McGowan said. "You just don't know what you're swinging at, and they're coming fast."
Tupper Lake had an especially rough budgeting year, faced with a $2.2 million deficit that was partially dealt with through the elimination of about a quarter of the district's instructional positions. One of the biggest reasons for the deficit was a significant reduction in expected state aid.
McGowan said he's not sure he can rehire teachers or hire new ones based on the funding, since it's likely to be a one-time boost.
"It's money, and we'll take it, but it doesn't do anything for the long-term solution," he said.
It would be a problem if the district gets caught on a funding cliff where the money drops away next year, McGowan said.
He also shares Goldman's concern that it's too late in the year to be hiring new teachers or dealing with budget issues.
"I wish this was happening in March or April," McGowan said.
He said he doesn't know yet which option for funding distribution would be best for Tupper Lake, since the current funding formula didn't help the district this year and the district probably doesn't fall within Title One limits.
"Those formulas for Tupper lake take a very odd twist, or at least did this year, so I'm cautious about any level of enthusiasm," he said.
McGowan is also nervous about potential mid-year cuts that have been threatened by the state, he said.
Scott Murphy also made claims that the bill was deficit neutral. In fact, the nonpartisan CBO said the bill added $12.6 billion in deficits.
Today, via Memeorandum, NY Times has come out with a story about how schools across the nation agree with Chris Gibson's stance.
NY Times reports:
As schools handed out pink slips to teachers this spring, states made a beeline to Washington to plead for money for their ravaged education budgets. But now that the federal government has come through with $10 billion, some of the nation’s biggest school districts are balking at using their share of the money to hire teachers right away.
With the economic outlook weakening, they argue that big deficits are looming for the next academic year and that they need to preserve the funds to prevent future layoffs. Los Angeles, for example, is projecting a $280 million budget shortfall next year that could threaten more jobs.