Solution to one-time money funding cliff is…one-time money, one more time?

In this March print  and video report, we introduced you to the term ‘funding cliff.’

The Wisconsin Legislature raised few eyebrows during the budget process last summer when it cut almost a billion dollars from aid to local school districts, and then back filled it with $789 million dollars in stimulus money. Many now say this move puts the financial footing of several school districts in jeopardy in the near future.

Since first issuing stimulus awards, the federal government has warned recipients about not spending the one-time money on on-going expenses in order to avoid a “funding cliff.” Wisconsin superintendents worry, if the state does not find a way to replace those federal funds in the education funding system soon, districts will plummet off that “funding cliff.”

Since then, we’ve conducted an informal survey of school districts across the state to see how they intedended to deal with their budget shortfalls.

We’ve run several stories on how Milwaukee Public Schools, the state’s largest and most dysfunctional district, is attempting to deal with this harsh fiscal reality.

The one-time stimulus gravy train did not solve a thing, it merely postponed the inevitiable.

Now, Wisconsin’s top education official is begging the federal government for yet another, one-time, hand out to bail out the state and the more than 400 school districts that need to get their fiscal houses in order.

Instead of making tough choices and reevaluating the way in which Wisconsin spends our educational dollars, Evers’ idea of leadership is to simply look for more help from the feds.

From WisPolitics: 

Evers spoke with reporters today as part of a teleconference urging federal lawmakers to approve a $23 billion education jobs fund, which the superintendent says could avoid thousands of teacher layoffs across Wisconsin. 

Passage of the bill could bring $415 million to Wisconsin to help stave off teacher cuts until the economy fully recovers, Evers said, adding “thousands” of positions are on the line in Wisconsin for the next school year. He said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has warned as many as 300,000 education jobs could be in jeopardy nationwide. 

At some point, the well will dry up. At some point the series of one-time bailouts will end. But rather than tackle this funding/spending dilemma head on right now, in a manner that will help kids and protect taxpayers, Evers and Company choose the easy way out.

More money. 

MPS is not alone, but it is the poster child in the skewed priorities and failed policies of the modern bureaucratic thinking.  The average annual compensation for teachers tops $100, 000 but the graduation rate is abysmal (and many who do manage to snag a diploma are woefully unprepared for life after high school).  The courts and prison system are clogged with the failures of our educational ‘leaders.’

What will help?  Well according to Evers, the answer is, predictably, more money.

It is akin to the bum on the street begging for money for ‘food,’ and spending the day’s bounty on booze and other vices.

If you don’t address problems with the manner by which these dollars are spent (consider value, return on investment, etc.) and  track how the funds are spent…well then you may as well throw the money down the drain. More money, that is.

By Brian Fraley
A MacIver Perspective