FREE PRESS WASHINGTON STAFF
WASHINGTON -- Just how much will the $825-billion financial stimulus plan being bandied about in Congress be worth to hard-hit Michigan?
We’re starting to find out.
For instance, the Congressional Research Service -- which figures these sorts of things out for legislators in Washington -- has divvied up the $38 billion in aid for local school districts across the country and found that Michigan stands to receive about $1.4 billion.
And when it comes to the $43 billion for “shovel ready” infrastructure projects, it looks like the state will get somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.2 billion for highway and bridge work, mass transit and clean water projects.
All of it is in addition to the usual federal budget, which carries billions of dollars of aid to the states already.
On another front, Washington, D.C.-based research group the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has estimated the number of taxpayers in each state likely to benefit from President Barack Obama’s Making Work Pay tax credit, which will refund $500 to individuals making less than $100,000 and $1,000 to couples making less than $200,000.
In Michigan, some 3.5 million people would be expected to benefit.
All of these numbers are estimates and, with the legislation still being marked up in the House, much could still change before the stimulus plan becomes law.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- who expects to bring the bill to the House floor next week -- has said she wants to deliver the bill to Obama’s desk by mid-February, meaning Democrats will try to keep alterations to a minimum.
Still, the early figures should be taken as more of a guide than a promise to individual school districts.
The CRS numbers on the school allotments indicate Detroit’s troubled school system could be a huge winner -- with some $300 million this year and nearly $430 million total over the next two years combined.
The reason is that much of the funding -- $11 billion nationwide over two years’ time -- is in Title 1 funding, which provides help to school districts based on the population of low-income families living there.
And the construction funding -- $14 billion in grants to help modernize schools -- will also come through the Title 1 formula, the idea being that those districts have the highest need.
Opening the formula, in turn, could lead to a political fight over how money is allocated that would pit district against district, town against town, state against state.
Another $13 billion over two years would be committed in IDEA funding -- specially targeted to help cover the costs of education kids with disabilities.
In metro Detroit, the funding via those formulas would vary widely. Pontiac could receive nearly $20 million over two years’ time; Dearborn City Schools, $27.4 million. Birmingham schools, by contrast, would see $2.5 million in additional funds. Rochester Community Schools could get $4.2 million.
The increase in federal funding would come at a crucial time for Michigan school districts. Many are seeing their enrollment decline and aren’t anticipating an increase in state aid for the 2009-2010 school year, yet they say their costs are increasing at rapid paces.
“Every district, including our own, is struggling,” said Janet Roberts, spokeswoman for Huron Valley Schools. “That struggle is getting worse and worse every year … so any relief would be a godsend.”
Ken Siver, deputy superintendent for Southfield Public Schools, today was compiling a list projects that could be addressed with the additional construction dollars, a list he said the state has requested of every district.
“I had a lot of projects I had in the works, and they were sort of on hold, depending on money,” Siver said.
The projects include replacing the floor at Southfield-Lathrup Middle School and reconfiguring the space at the district’s alternative school to add six new classrooms. Some, though, are projects that need to be done, like replacing the chiller at Thompson Middle School, and would require using general fund money.
“Then there’s less money for instruction,” Siver said.
“Some see education and economic development as separate issues, but they are really one in the same,” said U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, a Bloomfield Township Democrat who released the figures from CRS. “Investing in the modernization of our schools will create jobs now, provide our kids with the tools to succeed in a 21st Century economy and make America’s workforce more globally competitive.”
On the infrastructure investment, the breakdown -- based on existing highway formulas -- breaks down like this for Michigan: $875 million for highway and bridge work; $121 million for transit capital; $1 million for rail (and buses that operate on controlled rights of way); and $250 million for water and sewage projects.
Taken together, that $1.2 billion would be more than all but nine states -- California ($4.5 billion), New York ($3.3 billion), Texas ($3 billion), Florida ($1.9 billion), Pennsylvania ($1.9 billion), Illinois ($1.8 billion), Ohio ($1.5 billion), New Jersey ($1.4 billion) and Georgia ($1.3 billion).