Now Let’s Talk About Money – Duncan’s Ed money watch

The numbers are in. $100 billion will be going to the nations school districts. That’s the share Ed Secretary Arne Duncan will dole out as part of Obama’s stimulus package. This sum is a boon to many districts facing large budget shortfalls with teacher and programs on the chopping block to make ends meet. Duncan has said up to $40 billion will be rushed to districts over the next couple of months.

from NY Times

The message, which went out Friday in documents e-mailed to governors, state education commissioners and thousands of school superintendents, provided the first broad guidelines for how the Education Department intends to channel $100 billion to the nation’s 14,000 school districts over the next few months. The expenditure is part of the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package.

Some $44 billion will be made available to states before the end of this month, Mr. Duncan said, in the hope that layoffs can be averted. Hundreds of thousands of job losses in schools had been projected for the fall because of growing state budget deficits caused by a steep drop in tax revenues.

This isn’t money for nothing however. If districts want to get any of the remaining $56 billion they will have to toe the line that Dunc sets. In order to receive any more cash, state’s must prove they are complying with new laws to improve teacher quality, standards, assessments, data systems, and get failing schools on an upswing. That’s a tall order, but I’m less concerned with that then with what will happen when this stimulus money runs out.

from NY Times

The guidance admonished educators to spend the stimulus money, which is temporary, in ways that would minimize the dislocation that could follow when it ran out in two years. Some department officials are describing the exhaustion of the stimulus money in two years as a “cliff” over which school districts could plunge if they do not spend the money wisely.

If districts spend this money on things they really don’t need the results will be disastrous. Thought it would be nice to re-do the gymnasium, update the computer lab, or even hire a slew of new teachers, in the long run those would be poor choices. I hope districts look to the future when they are spending this money. What might look appealing today may bankrupt you tomorrow. This money is meant to cauterize some of the wounds in the education system, not to buy it a shiny new watch. Then it’s onward and upward.

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Now Let’s Talk About Money – Duncan’s Ed money watch

The numbers are in. $100 billion will be going to the nations school districts. That’s the share Ed Secretary Arne Duncan will dole out as part of Obama’s stimulus package. This sum is a boon to many districts facing large budget shortfalls with teacher and programs on the chopping block to make ends meet. Duncan has said up to $40 billion will be rushed to districts over the next couple of months.

from NY Times

The message, which went out Friday in documents e-mailed to governors, state education commissioners and thousands of school superintendents, provided the first broad guidelines for how the Education Department intends to channel $100 billion to the nation’s 14,000 school districts over the next few months. The expenditure is part of the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package.

Some $44 billion will be made available to states before the end of this month, Mr. Duncan said, in the hope that layoffs can be averted. Hundreds of thousands of job losses in schools had been projected for the fall because of growing state budget deficits caused by a steep drop in tax revenues.

This isn’t money for nothing however. If districts want to get any of the remaining $56 billion they will have to toe the line that Dunc sets. In order to receive any more cash, state’s must prove they are complying with new laws to improve teacher quality, standards, assessments, data systems, and get failing schools on an upswing. That’s a tall order, but I’m less concerned with that then with what will happen when this stimulus money runs out.

from NY Times

The guidance admonished educators to spend the stimulus money, which is temporary, in ways that would minimize the dislocation that could follow when it ran out in two years. Some department officials are describing the exhaustion of the stimulus money in two years as a “cliff” over which school districts could plunge if they do not spend the money wisely.

If districts spend this money on things they really don’t need the results will be disastrous. Thought it would be nice to re-do the gymnasium, update the computer lab, or even hire a slew of new teachers, in the long run those would be poor choices. I hope districts look to the future when they are spending this money. What might look appealing today may bankrupt you tomorrow. This money is meant to cauterize some of the wounds in the education system, not to buy it a shiny new watch. Then it’s onward and upward.

You’ve Got to Have an Opinion on the Matter – Obama speech views

As I promised here are some other views on Obama’s address last night.

Wall Street Journal says Obama’s words on big government don’t sync with reality

One, two, three from hopeful but skeptical responses from The New Republic

The Moderate Voice asks, “Is Obama now center-left?”

Reason throws in their two cents

Politico tells us what Obama really meant last night

Vodkapundit and Althouse try a little live blogging, though it’s a little late for the live part.

And if you missed it you can always check out the Maine View.

Practice Makes Perfect – Obama’s confidence speech

Last night President Obama gave sort of a runner up to the State of the Union Address. I attempted to watch the entire speech, but I only made it until 9:30. Hey you get up at five every morning and take care of a toddler and a sick pregnant wife! All that damn standing and clapping really slowed things down. Sit down Pelosi and let the man speak. (Did anyone notice how hard she clapped when Obama mentioned healthcare reform? I thought Pelosi’s hands were going to shatter.)

Thanks to those magic internets, I read a full transcript of the speech. It’s far too long to analyze the whole thing piece by piece. Overall I enjoyed it. Obama countered a lot of his critics.

from CBC News

As soon as I took office, I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by Presidents Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government — I don’t. Not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited — I am.

For those who have accused Obama of pushing a federalist big government agenda here’s his reply. Government isn’t the answer to all of our problems. This time, however, it has to be whether we like that or not. Most of us don’t want the government in our business. Obama is right though, failure of the government to act in some way would have led to us to a much worse place.

He gave historic examples as well of how government intervention helped private enterprise rather than shackling it under nationalization.

from CBC News

From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle-class in history. And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the Moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

In each case, government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive.

There was a lot of reassuring language in the speech. Reminders of other hardships we have overcome and how Americans can accomplish anything were peppered throughout the address. This is not about helping banks, Obama said at one point, but helping people. Invoking Churchill, Obama did not shy away from tough talk either.

from CBC News

I intend to hold these banks fully accountable for the assistance they receive, and this time, they will have to clearly demonstrate how taxpayer dollars result in more lending for the American taxpayer. This time, CEOs won’t be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days are over.

With yet more abuse exposed this morning, these are some powerful words. Words the President needs to stand behind if he wants confidence to rise and outrage to stay at a low boil and not bubble over.

Though I’m eager to see what sorts of health care reforms will be proposed, I’m going to skip ahead to the education reforms Obama spoke of.

Obama addressed the problem of high school dropout rates and low college completion rates. I agree with his no nonsense words the need for a student to graduate high school. “Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country — and this country needs and values the talents of every American.” Obama highlighted two important things here. You cannot cannot CANNOT hope to get anywhere in this country without a high school diploma. Even a factory job our fathers could have gotten straight out of high school is out of reach to someone with just a high school diploma. Students too need to take a little responsibility in their futures as well.

It pleases me greatly that Obama recognizes reform cannot be achieved by simply throwing money at the problem

CBC

But we know that our schools don’t just need more resources. They need more reform. That is why this budget creates new incentives for teacher performance; pathways for advancement, and rewards for success. We’ll invest in innovative programs that are already helping schools meet high standards and close achievement gaps. And we will expand our commitment to charter schools.

True reform and success will come from changing the way we do things in schools. Tenure and teacher pay raises linked to teacher performance are necessary. I still support charter schools and believe that they provide another important piece to the education puzzle, but not the only solution. Invest in programs that work, dump those that don’t. That’s some great common sense (and that’s not sarcasm.) I am expecting some more concrete reforms and for Arne Duncan to fill his damn cabinet.

I’ll post some other bloggers analysis later.

Sunday Editorial on Editorials – Backlash against Snowe and Collins

Republicans throughout Maine, at least the ones writing editorials, are about ready to hang Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe for treason. Voting your conscience is apparently not appreciated by conservative opinionators.

The two have been referred to as Republicans only during election season, treasonous, and reincarnations of that icon for turncoats Benedict Arnold.

I can’t say I’m surprised to see this kind of reaction. I am however disappointed. Many writers were upset that Snowe and Collins were not sticking to their conservative principles. I don’t recall them ever claiming to be conservatives. In fact both ran on being Moderate Republicans, which led them to win reelection in the most Liberal region of the country. Nor is this the first time the two senators have broken ranks with their party. Yet people are still surprised.

One reader even accused them of not reading the stimulus. Even though it is well known that Collins was one of the senators who poured over the bill looking for fat to trim out. Collins even stood fast against Sen Harry Reid in negotiations for spending reductions. I doubt whether or not this commentor has read enough, or any, of the bill in order to say whether or not the Senators can make an educated judgement on it.

Only one writer supported the Senators saying “Whining on the left, whining on the right! Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe have the fortitude to vote for what is right and not what ‘the party’ wants.” Even Collins said that if the far right says there is too much spending and the far right says there isn’t enough then they are doing something right.

The bill isn’t perfect and I doubt it can ever be perfect. Neither side will ever get exactly what they want. And maybe they shouldn’t. Republicans don’t have all the answers and the Democrats don’t either.

I applaud Snowe and Collins for breaking ranks to do what they believe is right and for working on the inside to bring some moderation to the stimulus rather than shouting outside the walls hoping to be heard.

Obama on the Offensive – Obama defending stimulus, attacking critics

President Obama has been racing around to every media outlet trying to drum up support for the stimulus plan. Thursday he submitted an op-ed piece to the Washington Post. In the piece Obama highlighted why he thought the stimulus plan was perfect.

from Washington Post:

This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending — it’s a strategy for America’s long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education. And it’s a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability, so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent…

Every day, our economy gets sicker — and the time for a remedy that puts Americans back to work, jump-starts our economy and invests in lasting growth is now.

Now is the time to protect health insurance for the more than 8 million Americans at risk of losing their coverage and to computerize the health-care records of every American within five years, saving billions of dollars and countless lives in the process.

Now is the time to save billions by making 2 million homes and 75 percent of federal buildings more energy-efficient, and to double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy within three years.

Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans.

And now is the time to create the jobs that remake America for the 21st century by rebuilding aging roads, bridges and levees; designing a smart electrical grid; and connecting every corner of the country to the information superhighway.

Yes our economy is getting worse. Just take a peak at the news for proof. And it will get worse before it gets better no matter what we do, that much is a given. Knowing this, why rush an imperfect plan that may end up just wasting money and not helping turn around our economy?

Obama says “there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis — the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems.” That’s true. Strategic spending is needed. I disagree with President Obama’s empatuation with health care and education spending as economic recovery. Our health care and education systems are in need of help. Throwing money at those problems hasn’t helped yet, so why would it help this time? Don’t waste money on health care and education. Bring true reform instead.

Green spending that will save us billions and Obama’s infrastructure spending I agree with, as I’ve said before. J.O.B.S. YES YES YES! That was lame and I appologize. We need a little laughter though.

Friday morning Obama threw some punches at his detractors.

from Crooks and Liars:

Now, I read the other day that critics of this plan ridiculed our notion that we should use part of the money to modernize the entire fleet of federal vehicles to take advantage of state-of-the-art fuel efficiency. This is what they called pork. You know the truth. It will not only save the government significant money over time, it will not only create manufacturing jobs for folks who are making these cars, it will set a standard for private industry to match.

And so when you hear these attacks, deriding something of such obvious importance as this, you have to ask yourself: Are these folks serious? Is it any wonder we haven’t had a real energy policy in this country?

It’s good to the Dems sticking up for themselves. They’ve been wet noodles for too long. I hope they remember what happens when you govern with hubris.

Harry Reid is a Great Big Jerk – Reid not interested on bipartisan stimulus

A tentative agreement has been reached on the stimulus plan. The plan has been chopped down to $780 billion.

from Huffington Post:

UPDATE – 7:50PM ET: Specter makes it official. Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, announced on the Senate floor that he is supporting the compromise stimulus bill that emerged today. Specter’s support comes after the announcement minutes earlier by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.). Democrats have 58 members in their caucus. The support of Specter and Collins gives them the 60 they need to end debate and move to passage of the bill.

Get used to hearing the names Collins and Specter, along with moderate Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and Olympia Snowe of Maine. If Al Franken ultimately finds his way to Washington, Democrats, if they stay united, will need only one of those four to move a bill through. They proved this evening they’re willing to do that.

Senator Harry Reid has shown some disappointing behavior in debate on the bill.

from NPR:

Earlier, Reid aggressively warned that the package would not be hijacked by the bipartisan group, which has been led by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Nelson said his group had been dealing with the White House during their meetings, though he did not say whether the president himself was involved in the discussions.

Behind the scenes, some Republicans were skeptical of Reid’s claim. But Democratic leaders are said to be confident that no Democrat will vote against the president, and that Collins and her fellow Maine Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe, and perhaps another Republican or two will vote for the plan, even without a compromise that lowers the price tag.

Democrats could pass the measure by a simple majority of the Senate’s 100 members. But leaders want to hit 60 to deny Republicans the opportunity of blocking the legislation with a point of order allowed under the chamber’s rules.

The mood at the Capitol all day had an air of desperation — and, at times, anger — as Republicans took to the Senate floor to take whacks at the president’s plan, and Democrats pushed back.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona attempted to replace the president’s package with one that cost about half as much and included more tax cuts; his effort failed by a vote of 57-40. McCain said what was happening in the Senate is “not bipartisanship.”

Come on Senator Reid. You are acting like a child. You are not the kid who was bullied on the playground who has decided to fight back. Just because you had to fight the Bush administration hard for eight years doesn’t mean you can or should turn around and do the same. This is a bipartisan group no less, not just Republicans. Does absolute power corrupt absolutely? In Harry Reid’s case maybe it does.