Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Oh, fudge!

As in, more fudged stimulus numbers. This time from Obama's back yard. And you will love it.

Here are excepts from the Chicago Tribune:
Illinois data on stimulus-related jobs saved, created don't add up
Districts say job numbers attributed to them inaccurate; totals ignore Chicago
By Bob Secter and Erika Slife, Chicago Tribune reporters
November 4, 2009

More than $4.7 million in federal stimulus aid so far has been funneled to schools in North Chicago, and state and federal officials say that money has saved the jobs of 473 teachers.

Problem is, the district employs only 290 teachers.

"That other number, I don't know where that came from," said Lauri Hakanen, superintendent of North Chicago Community Unit Schools District 187.

The Obama administration last week released the first round of data designed to underpin the worthiness of its economic stimulus plan, which so far has directed $1.25 billion to Illinois schools. That money has helped save or create 14,330 school jobs in the state, the administration claimed.

But those statistics, compiled initially by the Illinois State Board of Education, appear riddled with anomalies that raise questions about their validity, according to a Tribune analysis of district-by-district stimulus spending and other state data. Many local school officials were perplexed by the stimulus data attributed to their districts.

In the official report, Wilmette Public Schools District 39 was credited with 166 jobs saved by stimulus aid. Superintendent Raymond Lechner said the number should be zero.

At Dolton-Riverdale School District 148, stimulus funds were said to have saved the equivalent of 382 full-time teaching jobs -- 142 more than the district actually has.

A similar discrepancy was found in data for Kankakee School District 111, where the stimulus report logged the equivalent of 665 full-time jobs saved. "That's impossible," a top Kankakee school official said, adding that the entire payroll -- full and part time -- is 600 workers.

But if that suggests the numbers for Illinois may be artificially inflated, then consider the following, which could suggest an undercount:

The totals do not reflect any school jobs saved or created in Chicago, the state's biggest district and the recipient of at least $293 million in stimulus funds. Chicago schools budget chief Christina Herzog said the district easily saved at least 1,200 jobs because of the stimulus, but didn't report them as such because of directives from the state board. State officials dispute that.

The district-specific data, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, also underscore how little of the money has been spent to expand educational opportunities. Statewide, districts reported using most of their stimulus funds to prevent layoffs, with the equivalent of just 222 full-time jobs added to payrolls.

It appears the state treasury -- not students or school districts -- was the prime beneficiary of the education stimulus jackpot in Illinois. In great measure, funds simply were used to replace general aid payments already owed to local districts by the state. That gave Gov. Pat Quinn breathing room in his struggle to rein in a whopping two-year budget deficit of more than $10 billion.
Chicago's omission from the stimulus data is not without irony. The federal overseer of school stimulus spending is U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who until early this year was the CEO of the Chicago schools.

Sandra Abrevaya, a spokeswoman for Duncan, said the discrepancies the Tribune uncovered in Illinois jobs data are "really troubling" and would be investigated and corrected if necessary. Still, she said, similar jobs reports from other states appear more solid.

"At this point, the department feels good about the number overall," she said.

Last spring, Dolton-Riverdale received $3.6 million in stimulus money and reported to the state that the money saved 181 teaching jobs. A follow-up report this fall on another installment of $750,000 brought the total to 201. The official state report states that stimulus money saved 382 jobs.

But Carolyn Keith, the district's comptroller, said the data from the two reports overlap and should not be added together.
By contrast, the numbers reported for many districts -- even big ones -- were conservative. Naperville Community Unit School District 203, with 18,000 students, reported just six jobs created with stimulus money.

In Schaumburg-based School District 54, Superintendent Ed Rafferty said the state's estimate of 250 jobs preserved or created was accurate, though more than half belonged to a multidistrict preschool program that includes District 54.

Just a handful of the jobs were new, Rafferty said, and he warned that every position propped up by stimulus money would be in jeopardy when the program expires. "Unless there's a guarantee of continuation of (federal or state) money, the vast majority of these will be eliminated because there won't be local resources to fund them," he said.

Tribune reporter John Keilman contributed.

No comments:

Post a Comment