Friday, December 19, 2008

Not a Cut: District Technical Financial Assistance

We'll (meaning I'll) get back to the scheduled wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding the Governor's education budget soon enough, but let's take a moment for one of the new programs that she's looking to fund:

Provide school district financial technical assistance. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction predicts that more school districts with declining fund balances could become subject to state oversight. A group of experts is created through the Educational Service Districts to help school districts with financial planning and monitoring. The OSPI will coordinate this technical assistance. ($3.0 million GF-S)
I've heard a stat bandied about that there are 30-something school districts "on the verge"--of insolvency, of bouncing checks, of being Vader-ed, I'm not sure which--but I've yet to find a source for that claim. If anyone out there can assist, I'd appreciate it.

I guess I'm curious, then, what the role of these "experts" would be. Is this a takeover? Would the experts have the authority to void contracts they felt contributed to the insolvency problem? Doesn't the ESD already handle a lot of the financial oversight for smaller districts, the so-called "second class" districts with less than 2,000 kids? Is this a role best taken on by Sonntag and the State Auditor's Office?

Some of this is reflexive distrust on my part of adding more programs to the OSPI menu. Part of it, too, is a sense of frustration--"Hi, I know we cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from your budget, but now we're here to tell you what a bunch of f-ups you are!"

Hopefully there'll be more exposition forthcoming, but at first blush I'm not feeling it.

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