$50 Billion Here, $50 Billion There . . . .

According to this article in the Washington Post, President Obama is pushing Congress to spend $50 billion in “aid” to state and local governments.  Without the bailout, he says, there will be “massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters” and the “still-fragile” economy “recovery” might be hurt.  Congress is resisting this additional gout of government spending.  Indeed, one of the Democratic leaders in the House says there is “spending fatigue” among our elected representatives.  The article suggests that teachers would be the prime beneficiaries of the $50 billion package; earlier President Obama sought $24 billion to help keep 300,000 teachers from being laid off.

How can anyone seriously think that a new $50 billion bailout of states is a good idea?  Unless your reflexive response to every economic challenge is for the federal government to provide bail out funds and add still more to the mounting federal deficit, you have to recognize that providing more money to the states is like plying an alcoholic with more liquor.  The states are having budget problems because their spending habits have been unsustainable.  They need to deal with those problems — as New Jersey’s Governor is trying to do — and not defer the day of reckoning through resort to federal cash.  States must assume responsibility for their own budgets and their own budgetary problems, and if they have to lay off state workers, teachers, and others to do so, then so be it.

Talking about “aid” to the States is silly.  These aren’t foreign countries that need “aid” to deal with poverty, malnutrition, or health issues,  they are rich American states with bloated budgets.  They don’t need aid, they need steadfastness, resolve, and a good dose of belt-tightening.

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Our Tax Dollars (Not) At Work

I am a faithful supporter of the New Albany-Plain Local school system.  I always vote for school levies and believe that a strong public school system is a crucial element of any successful and prosperous community.

That is why I was infuriated when I read the article in the New Albany News about the Board of Education’s decision to approve the resignation of Steve Castle, the superintendent of schools.  Under the deal that has been worked out, Dr. Castle will become “immediate past superintendent” and receive the benefits and salary due under his contract until it expires on July 31, 2011 — which comes to $173,666 in salary, plus benefits.  The article reports that if Castle find other employment during that one-year period, he will receive $134,769 in severance benefits, plus the difference between his New Albany salary and the salary at his new job.  What will Dr. Castle do for his $173,666, plus benefits?  He will “help to facilitate the transition of the office of superintendent” and “perform other services for the board yet to be detailed.”

Why are taxpayers paying Dr. Castle $173,666, plus benefits, to twiddle his thumbs?  Although the New Albany News story doesn’t tell us, a Columbus Dispatch article states that the Board and Dr. Castle disagree about their respective “visions” and strategic planning for the school district.  Ironically, the school board also found fault with his approach to teacher compensation and his recommendation of additional teacher increases even after the economy went into recession, and three of the members of the school board were elected in November on a fiscal restraint platform.  Yet now we are going to spend nearly $175,000 for an administrator to sit idle while we also pay a new person to assume the superintendent’s role until a permanent replacement can be found.

That is not a prudent use of tax dollars — particularly not during a tough recessionary period when schools should be squeezing every penny.  I don’t know whether Dr. Castle was a good or bad superintendent; that decision rests with the school board.  Once the school board decided that Dr. Castle’s contract would not be renewed after it expired in July 2011, however, it should have figured out a way to deal with the “vision,” planning, and other issues and work with him during his last year on the job while a new superintendent was located.  This isn’t like baseball, where team owners routinely bear a fired manager’s contract payments as part of a cost of doing business.  Taxpayers should not be paying ex-administrators to do nothing.

A Bit More On Nebraska

The University of Nebraska – Lincoln, the newest member of the Big Ten conference, fits very comfortably among the ranks of Big Ten schools.

Nebraska is a land grant university that was chartered in 1869 and is a member of the Association of American Universities.  In the fall semester of the 2009-10 school year, Nebraska had more than 18,000 undergraduate students and more than 4,500 graduate students.  The school clearly has significant research capabilities; for the year ended June 30, 2009, the school received more than $122 million in research funding.  Like Ohio State, Nebraska is located in its state’s capital city named for a well-known historical figure; Lincoln, Nebraska is a city of 250,000.  The Nebraska website has a helpful alphabetical listing that compares Nebraska’s enrollment data (and other information) to that of other schools in the conference.

Most of us know Nebraska through its athletic program.  The football Cornhuskers play in Memorial Stadium (capacity 81,067), which has sold out for more than 300 consecutive home games.   Nebraska can boast of five college football national championships, including three in the 1990s, when Nebraska had one of college football’s most dominant programs.  Nebraska also has won national championships in men’s gymnastics, women’s volleyball, and . . . women’s bowling.   (As a native of Akron and a lifelong bowler, I have to give props to the Lady Cornhusker Keglers.)

I think Nebraska will be a good fit for the Big Ten, and Big Ten football fans who like traveling to away games — of which there are many — no doubt are looking forward to seeing a Big Ten clash in Memorial Stadium, one of college football’s most storied venues.  They will get their chance starting in 2011.