Thursday, October 22, 2009

Greg Stumbo Wants to Steal From Our Schools

School superintendents are beginning to push back against House Speaker Greg Stumbo's plan to raid school districts' contingency funds to make up for the state's budget shortfall.

The most outrageous thing about Stumbo's plan is that it punishes those schools that were fiscally responsible, to bail out a state government that was not.

State law requires schools to maintain a contingency fund between 2 to 5 percent of the school's budget. Some districts, on the advice of their outside auditors, maintain a little more than five percent.

Thus, a district with a Category 4 or 5 school -- that is, decrepit -- might put aside extra contingency fund money in case the boiler blows, the roof leaks or it needs to build an addition. Likewise, a school with an experienced staff of teachers should have a contingency sufficient to pay its share of the unused sick leave a teacher gets to cash out upon retirement.

And if geniuses in Frankfort or Washington decide to pass an unfunded mandate, the contingency fund is the school's safety net.

Rather than commending these schools that have scrimped to prepare for such scenarios, Stumbo wants to punish these schools by confiscating their contingency funds. He may be a little more subtle than just taking the contingency funds outright; he may reduce SEEK funds -- the State per pupil allocation to the school -- and tell schools to make up the difference from their contingency funds. But the net affect is the same. That's why schools were asked to provide information about their contingency funds last winter: Stumbo has been planning this for months.

Stumbo's tactics reflect what his party does at the national level: punish responsibility and reward profligacy. Just take from the school's who planned and saved and award a bailout to whomever Stumbo deems deserving.

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