Stimulus Jobs: Finagling the Definition of “Retained”
In a scene presumably also unfolding in other municipalities, the Woonsocket Education Department has applied for $2.4m of federal stimulus dollars so as to retain forty positions in the school system; more specifically, to prevent the closing of the [correction provided by MikeinRI]
Davies technical school Woonsocket Area Career and Technical Center.
The goal of stimulus spending was stretched from the get-go with the clever addition of the qualifier “saved”, as in “3.5 million jobs created or saved“. I understand and sympathize that Woonsocket has serious budget problems. At the same time, isn’t it now stretching the goal of stimulus dollars beyond recognition to utilize them to address budget issues on the local level, especially in view of the state’s upside down teacher pay to student achievement ratio?
Woonsocket school officials would contend – in fact, do so in the application – that they are applying for these funds in part to address academic shortcomings identified in the district. But is this not a matter that would have been more appropriately and effectively addressed during the course of contract negotiations over the course of the last fifteen years?
Now, if we multiply Woonsocket’s request to spend stimulus dollars for this reason by school districts around Rhode Island and the United States, we are faced with the questions of utility, efficacy and possibly even honesty. Does the expenditure of stimulus funds – which are, we should remind ourselves, not free money but tax dollars – on public sector contracts of questionable feasibility truly benefit the economy?