Stimulus money causes spending arguments

ROMEO, Mich. – While some Michigan school districts are making plans to spend federal stimulus dollars, others say they are waiting for firm guidelines, and an argument has erupted in at least one location, according to media reports.

In Romeo, administrators said they are waiting for details on how to spend money earmarked for special education, at-risk students and technology, though in general the money is intended to improve student achievement, The Romeo Observer reported. Examples of uses would include professional development for teachers or online course software, the Observer reported.

Macomb County is estimated to receive about $14 million for at-risk students and $29 million for special education. That doesn’t include “stabilization” funds, which are expected to be used to avert a statewide $59 per pupil funding reduction, the Observer reported.

The Royal Oak Education Association, however, sponsored a rally to protest plans to use that district’s money for professional development and computers rather than to hire back staff.

The district had suggesting using their stimulus dollars for professional development, technology upgrades and developing after-school programs, among other items, C&G News reported. Superintendent Tom Moline told the News that the federal government has asked school districts to use the money for education reform and effectiveness, and not to fund positions that will have to be eliminated when the federal money runs out in two years.

But Sidney Kardon, a school social worker and president of the union, said, “The purpose of the stimulus is to avert layoffs and retain jobs.” He also criticized the district’s plan to privatize its food service operation.

C&G News, “Teachers, staff hold rally over budget decisions,” May 22, 2009

The Romeo Observer, “Schools await criteria for stimulus package funds,” May 20, 2009