One of the lessons I've learned as I try to hone my skeptical thinking skills is to mistrust second- or third-hand information. In that spirit, I've been reading bits and pieces of the economic stimulus bill that's being passed through Congress, trying to figure out how it will impact Amherst's school budget.
The stimulus bill is actually fairly easy to read; the only hard bits are all the references to other laws, and putting all the numbers into context. For example, they're gonna spend five billion dollars on grants that meet the requirements of "Section 1125, Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965." And another five billion on stuff from section 1125A, and three billion from section 1003g.
So I wanna know: how much of that money will go to Amherst's public schools? Can the State hog it all and not pass any money to Amherst? Will it be enough to fill in this year's budget gap? Next year's?
So: how much? There are a few really big (more than $1billion) pots of money in the Stimulus bill related to K-12 education:
$13 billion more for ESEA (aka "no child left behind") Title I
$12 billion more for IDEA (special education)
$53 billion for State Fiscal Stabilization
(... there's also several hundreds of millions of dollars for other various programs that I'm going to ignore to be conservative and because I'm too lazy to try to figure out if any of that money will go to Amherst, and I'm rounding all the numbers down to the nearest billion).
I figure something like $800,000 of the ESEA and IDEA money will eventually end up in Amherst public schools. I got that number by multiplying the amount of money Amherst public schools got from those pots of money last year by the percentage increases represented by the stimulus.
And I figure at least $1,500,000 of the Stabilization money will eventually end up in Amherst public schools.
So, how much: It looks 2.4 million dollars, over the next 2 years or so (Google spreadsheet here if you wanna see my math).
Can the State hog it all? Nope-- the law is written so the money has to flow through to local schools.
Is that enough to fill in the budget gaps this year and next? According to the ARPS website, they need $3million/year more just to provide the same services; the stimulus should fill in less than half of that.
What'll happen in two years when the stimulus money is all gone? I have no idea. I think we're not supposed to be worrying about that-- the whole idea of the stimulus is to SPEND NOW. If the stimulus works, then the economy will be going gangbusters and we'll have no worries. I really wanna believe that this is what's going to happen... but I just don't.
If the stimulus doesn't work, then the economy will be in terrible shape, the Democrats will lose control of Congress, the Republicans will cut Federal education spending to the bone, and we'll have an even bigger budget crunch. Sigh.
UPDATE: My original estimates were off by a million dollars or so-- a bunch of the State Stabilization money will go to post-secondary schools (i.e. UMass).
7 April UPDATE: The State says Amherst is going to get $0 from the state stabilization fund...