Leading Source

Hey brother can you spare $100 million?

There’s been a lot of talk about the nation’s sudden affliction of “bailout hangover” now that Congress has approved the $700 billion financial industry takeover and an emergency loan package to automakers looks like a done deal.

So with everyone asking “what about me?” these days, why shouldn’t school districts ask for a share of the pot? After all, the nation’s future economic outlook largely hinges on a well-educated population.

Turns out, that’s what some had in mind.

On Tuesday Broward County became the second school system, and the largest, to formally ask for a share of the pot when its school board voted to petition the government for an unspecified amount of bailout funds. In suburban Cleveland, Olmstead Falls superintendent Todd Hoadley made national news last week when he called on Congress to provide $100 million to help his fast-growing district pay for school construction projects and unfunded federal mandates.

Just a few weeks after taking his job, Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho says it’s time for the federal government to bail out schools. While its local economy is quite different than the Rust Belt, Florida is also hurting from the economic slowdown, as evidenced by its glut of home foreclosures.

“The most commonly heard solution out of Washington these days is a bailout where the federal government intervenes to safeguard key industries and in the process, the quality of American life,” Carvalho said. “If that’s the rationale, than I cannot think of a more strategic investment than safeguarding the quality of public education.”

Broward Schools Superintendent Jim Notter said Carvalho “took the lead in putting it out there for others of us to say, ‘Hey, that’s not just a ploy — that’s a fabulous idea.'”

“We’re certainly at the edge of a cliff and anywhere at the state or federal level that we can seek help, we will,” Notter told the Miami Herald.

Broward has cut $128 million from its $5 billion budget in the past 18 months, and is facing an additional $160 million in cuts for the upcoming school year. Miami-Dade has cut $289 million from its $5.5 billion budget, according to the Herald.

But some economists say the chances of these districts getting a bailout are nil, given that public schools are already publicly funded and the bailout plan is designed to shore up private industries that are critical to the economy. Still, in these tough times, it can’t hurt to ask.

Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor

Naomi Dillon|December 10th, 2008|Categories: Governance, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

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