I have been at a meeting in North Carolina with budget watchdog and fiscal conservative groups for the last two days. Lots of great ideas, but clearly being from Massachusetts sets you apart from other folks in some ways.
One example is how Governors have used their stimulus money. When I discussed with them how we cut deep into our education budget and plugged the hole with stimulus dollars, they said, hey, your Governor’s being fiscally conservative. I disagree because I think you have to prioritize education. The Governor definitely does, as I have noted, if he wants to assert, as he did in a recent video (now pulled?), that he has made “extraordinary efforts to invest in… education.”
I cited a report from the US DOE’s Inspector General criticizing three states for using the stimulus funds in a way that was not intended in the stimulus legislation. Massachusetts was one of the three. (See the OIG’s memo and the Federal OESE’s response here.) I concluded:
The Patrick administration has not done anything illegal but the feds don’t like it.
Well, I have to amend that statement. Some of the feds don’t like it. The USDOE’s Inspector General does not like it, as is evident in the report. But, as Libby Quaid of the AP wire reports, Secretary Arne Duncan has given the Governor’s cuts his blessing.
“The Education Department is reassuring the state of Massachusetts it does not agree with an internal watchdog who suggested the state was using economic stimulus money improperly. The department’s inspector general had singled out Massachusetts and two other states, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, for using stimulus dollars to plug budget holes instead of boosting aid for schools.
‘We’ve looked at this pretty carefully,’ Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. ‘Massachusetts has done nothing wrong or illegal.’”
Note: I never said anything illegal was done. What I said was that it wasn’t right for Massachusetts. I stand by that statement no matter what Secretary Arne Duncan, who is doing a great job, says. I stand by that statement no matter what my fiscal conservative friends say.
We have always been proponents of doing hard things like raising the cap on charters, strengthening standards, and putting back in place accountability for all schools, especially including failing district schools. (I think people know well we are also for harder things like fixing the pension system, etc.)
But fund the schools and don’t position us in front of a massive cliff when the stimulus money is gone. And, folks, it’s (for all intents and purposes) gone.