Hustling for mandate money
California schools get extra funding for state-mandated programs — and there are lots of state-mandated programs. The Sacramento Bee reports:
If a school teaches the Gettysburg Address, should it get more money for doing so? What if it prepares boys and girls for earthquakes? Or notifies parents their kids have been truant?
In California, the answer is yes, thanks to a hidden and costly corner of school finance known as “mandates.”
Under the mandate system, public schools get money — usually with no questions asked — to pay them back for providing certain programs required by the state. Over the past five years, the system has paid nearly a billion dollars to schools for doing things many people would expect them to do.
Posting agendas for public meetings, keeping track of immunizations, teaching science to sophomores, collective bargaining — these are but a few of the tasks schools are being reimbursed for in what has become a hot source of cash for desperate districts. In one example of the fiscal feeding frenzy, people have spent time counting all the pages in history textbooks, looking for something they could bill to the state. When the mandate money rolls in, districts can spend it however they wish.
. . . “What’s that saying about the manure pile?” said Joann Steinmeier, a school board member from Arcadia who recently served on the Commission on State Mandates, which oversees the process. ” ‘With a pile of manure this big, there’s got to be a pony in there somewhere.’ Well, in this case, everybody’s got a pony in there.”
Naturally, the process generates tons of paperwork, all processed by hand.