Yesterday, Congress passed its $26 billion bailout for states that still haven’t taken steps to fix their entrenched budget problems. Everyone understands that this is nothing more than a shell game designed by Congress to allow states to shift funds to less-popular parts of their bureaucracies while claiming to save the jobs of teachers (and first responders, in the original Porkulus bill). States simply redirect some of their existing funding of teachers and let Congress take credit for rescuing educators.
However, Chris Moody at the Daily Caller reports a problem in the magic act. Some states that acted responsibly have no use for the tens of millions of dollars Congress earmarked for them:
With the passage of a $26 billion aid package Tuesday to help states pay for Medicaid and teacher salaries, most state budgets will get some help in paying for education programs, but states not facing massive teacher layoffs and cutbacks are also set to receive millions in federal money.
The federal government estimates that the bill will save 161,000 teaching jobs, but North Dakota, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alaska and a handful of other states have kept their educational pay rolls full despite the recession, which has drastically lowered government revenues around the country. Since the new bill provides funds based on state population and the number of children in school, these states will receive funds even if their budgets are in the black. This has some employees at state education departments wondering exactly how they will spend all the fresh cash.
Arkansas, for example, has a fully funded teaching staff for the coming year, but the state will still receive up to $91 million for teaching jobs. …
In Alaska for instance, school districts made hiring decisions for teachers last May, and apportioned the children in each class based upon those numbers. Although the teaching jobs are filled, the state will still receive $24 million under the bill, and a state official asserted that it probably would not go to adding new teachers.
The Department of Education helpfully suggests that the funds could go to other jobs. For instance, schools with enough teachers could hire “on-campus therapists” to soak up the cash. Isn’t it great that we borrowed tons of cash on top of the massive deficits we already have to save or create jobs for on-campus therapists?
Maybe Congress could use a couple of on-campus therapists … or tutoring in math. “You see, Nancy, when you subtract more than the total, you end up with nothing.”
The real solution is to get states to act responsibly on their own. The citizens of Arkansas, Alaska, Tennessee, and North Dakota have elected responsible public officials who have budgeted wisely. They now have to subsidize irresponsible governments in other states, where they have no vote and no say in how their money will get used. Rather than keeping the subsidies rolling and incentivizing irresponsibility, Congress needs to cut off the gravy train and force these states to do what they will have to do eventually anyway — budget their money properly and make decisions on the cost and functionality of their government.