I listen a lot to talk radio, specifically WEEI Sports radio, and 96.9 FM Talk Radio in the Boston area. Unfortunately, when it comes to politics, all you hear on talk radio is conservative, right wing viewpoints. I do live in Massachusetts, so don’t ask me why all this right wing propaganda pollutes our airwaves. I guess this is because right-wing politics tend to piss a lot of people off and drive up ratings. I don’t know. You got me, a liberal democrat listening to them, so I guess the ploy has worked.

One thing I heard a lot after Obama’s first address to Congress was conservatives attacking Obama’s speech and the stimulus. You hear nitpicks about how Texas is getting a cheerleading museum. Stuff like that. Showing bloat that when compared to the overall size of the stimulus package is pretty insignificant. What I wanted to do within this blog is call attention to a few of the good things that are in the bill.

Last summer I joined our Town’s Finance Committee. The Finance Committee’s job is to review all departmental budgets in town and to submit an overall base budget for the entire town. I couldn’t have picked a more interesting time to join. The economy has stalled town growth which means very little new revenue growth. Massachusetts state revenue is also way down which has put local aid funds in serious jeopardy. The contracts for our Police, Fire, and Teachers are all up for renegotiation. Add to this Massachusetts Proposition 2 1/2 which forbids local communities to raise taxes more that 2.5% without 2/3 of the town voting to support a tax increase. It has turned out to be a very tight budget year.

In a tight budget year, we all know what takes the brunt of any cuts. The school system. Our school is faced with probable cuts in funding to after school programs, children supplies, furniture, and even textbooks. There’s also the very real danger of staff reductions and increased class sizes as well as we’re dangerously close to the 2.5% threshold.

The federal stimulus package couldn’t have come at a better time and is affecting our budget in three possible separate ways

  • Special Education.  Massachusetts law requires kids with special education needs to be supported by the community and integrated with the school.  A special needs kid moving into town can have a huge impact on the schools budget as they cost a lot more than a regular student to educate and support.  For example, in our town, new special ed kids account for 25% of the growth of the schools budget.  During the Bush Administration ‘W’ set up guildelines for special education, promised funding, but never delivered.  It looks like the stimulus is providing the promised funding.  This results in hundreds of thousands of dollars being put into the school system.
  • It is not fully clear yet, but it looks like the stimulus package will help fully fund the shortfall of state education aid.
  • Obama wasn’t lying when he said our schools were crumbling.  Our 40-year old roof started leaking into a 4th grade classroom due to the severe weather we’ve been having this winter.  The kids had to be moved to another area in the building.  There is a high possibility the stimulus will help us fund putting in a badly needed roof.  Our junior high and high school also have new roofing needs that have been put off.

I know the conservatives among you will never ever admit that the stimulus is doing any good, but I hope those of you on the fence at least have had their eyes opened to some of the good.  Too often the media (even the liberal media) focuses too much on the eyebrow-raising parts of politics and never really sheds light on the true reality.  Hopefully this blog has done a little to shed some light on things.