Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stimulus Response. No bells rang and the response was hardly Pavlovian, and instead of salavation, all of us assembled were more prone to drooling as our eyes rolled back into our heads as Tom Melcher and Chas Anderson described plethora of nuance and maze of restrictions contained in the federal stimulus package and its effects for Minnesota school districts.

Calling this complicated does not come near describing the situation. Over $800 million is slated to hit Minnesota school districts, but given the description of the various strings, pulleys, and levers that comprise the Rube Goldberg machinery (an example of shown on the left) that is the federal commitment to education, I wouldn't be surprised if the money showed up as convoy of semis all carrying pennies. Putting it bluntly, this, regardless of how appreciated and how well-intentioned it is, is a mess. The revenue numbers we distributed earlier in the week are accurate, but the Title I and IDEA appropriations are only a portion of the revenue slated to come to Minnesota school districts. There is also revenue coming through the stabilization revenue portion of the bill (which is larger than the IDEA and Title I portions), but like the other segments of the bill, one needs a "federal revenue GPS" to navigate the maze of strings and obstacles to getting the money into the bank.
One of the problems with this whole process is that in the rush to get the revenue to the states, all amendments, clarifying and otherwise, were resisted in Congress. The logic is straightforward and airtight in this matter. The minute that one member of either the US House or Senate put an amendment in the stimulus package, the other 534 would have made a mad rush to line up behind them. In an effort to avoid the inevitable slowdown resulting from such a process, only the barest of explanatory language was included in the bill. Hence, the states are left to ferret through the mish-mash to figure out how this contraption works.
So what are the results? After the dust settles, money (and probably a few headaches trying to figure out how much you're getting and how you have to spend what you are getting). AND, most likely a special session in Minnesota. I have always thought that the odds of a special session were about 50/50, but I think the passage of the stimulus package hikes those odds. The stimulus package is really going to put a crimp in some of the Governor's recently announced budget plans due to the maintenance-of-effort portions of the stimulus package (and what actually counts as maintenance-of-effort) and we will see adjustments in the Governor's revised budget that will be released in a little over a week.
Tom Melcher and Chas Anderson will be holding a discussion session on the stimulus package at 9 AM on Friday at the TIES building. AMSD has organized this presentation and unfortunately for SEE members, that conflicts with our monthly meeting. Commissioner Alice Seagren will be the featured speaker at our meeting and it is my hope that we can get Dr. Melcher and Deputy Commissioner Anderson to appear jointly with the Commissioner to shed at least a little light on the stimulus package. AMSD Executive Director Scott Croonquist has forwarded an invitation to anyone interested in attending to join the Friday meeting and it is my suggestion that SEE districts registered to attend our meeting bring an additional staff person/school board member along and send them to the meeting at TIES. We have an interesting meeting planned, but I wouldn't want our districts to lose out on an opportunity to get as much information as they can regarding the federal stimulus package. Deb and I will keep you informed tomorrow as to what Friday may look like and whether Dr. Melcher and Deputy Commissioner Anderson will be able to attend the SEE meeting.

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