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10/5/2010 9:55:00 PM
Lakeland school board says 'no thanks' to federal dollars
Administration hopes rejection of $45 allocation will make a statement

By Laurel Carlson

of The Lakeland Times

The Lakeland Union High School (LUHS) board of education voted unanimously at its meeting last week to decline federal stimulus dollars allocated to districts through use of the state equalized funding formula.

District administration made a recommendation to "respectfully decline the $45 that was awarded to the school district as a part of the Education Jobs Fund Act."

The Education Jobs Funds Act was passed by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and was signed by President Obama last month.

The bill gives $10 billion for an Education Jobs Fund to go to state and local governments with the idea of staving off teacher layoffs.

The assistance is designed to help pay for teacher salaries and benefits.

Of the $10 billion, Wisconsin received an allotment of $179,650,099.

Of this amount, LUHS was offered $45.

Board member Joe Handrick said offering school districts such a small amount is a "slap in the face."

However, many Wisconsin school districts were awarded far more than was LUHS.

The Milton School District in western Wisconsin was awarded nearly $727,000 and will use the funds to fill several full and part-time positions that have been unfilled for some time.

The funding will also potentially provide for the start up of four-year-old kindergarten in that district next year.

District administrator Todd Kleinhans said the state equalized aid formula was used to allocate these funds.

This means school districts that qualified for a large amount of state aid got a larger portion of the funds and northern districts deemed to be property-rich, such as Lakeland, did not.

"Gov. Doyle pretty much had his hands tied by the federal government," Kleinhans said.

Doyle had to choose whether to use the state equalized aid formula or the Title 1 formula to allocate the funds.

Had Doyle chosen the latter, LUHS would have garnered about $3,000, according to Kleinhans.

However, this formula also would have given the Milwaukee Public School District about one-third of total funds allocated to the state.

While Doyle may have chosen the most equitable of the two options he was given, many feel the current funding formula is not as equitable as it should be.

Kleinhans said declining the awarded dollars is an opportunity for the district to make its sentiments known about funding formulas.

"This is an opportunity for us to make a statement in regards to the problems associated with the school funding formula," Kleinhans said.

The board also agreed that accepting the award was just not practical, as time, thus money, must be invested to record and track how the dollars are used.

"We would be required to, every quarter, document how we're spending the dollars," Kleinhans said.

He said the board's decision is consistent with other school boards in the area.

"Your action, if you decide to decline, would be in line with your colleagues at all the other Oneida and Vilas school districts," Kleinhans said.

The board overseeing the School District of Elcho also made its disappointment known when it turned down the stimulus check made out for $25.

That board, in a public statement, emphasized the funds offered were not sufficient to fulfill the purpose of the grant.

"This is great opportunity for us to take a stand in northern Wisconsin and say that there is something fundamentally wrong when every child in the state doesn't receive access to these dollars. There's something wrong with that formula."

Laurel Carlson may be reached via email at lcarlson@lakelandtimes.com.

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Article comment by: Doug s.

Unfortunately, we're all still paying for it. Where were you on this one Mr. Meyer?

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