COVID Aid Used For School Sports Programs, Whitewater Academics Second Place To Turf Fields

While a strong advocate of government funding and the muscle that comes with programming meant to make a difference in the nation, I am also lamenting once again the lack of needed requirements on spending such money.

The lead paragraph in the Associated Press story woke me up Wednesday morning almost as fast as a cup of French Roast.

One Wisconsin school district built a new football field. In Iowa, a high school weight room is getting a renovation. Another in Kentucky is replacing two outdoor tracks — all of this funded by the billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief Congress sent to schools this year.

No one needs to be reminded of the concern felt around the country when schools needed to close to stem the spread of COVID-19. Scores of national stories were reported about the shortcomings of virtual learning, the slower pace of learning, and the loss for some students of basically a year in their education.

When the federal government stepped in with a large package of funds to address the pandemic and specifically schools which were severely impacted most people were pleased with the efforts.

When school officials in Whitewater, Wisconsin, learned they would be getting $2 million in pandemic relief this year, they decided to use most of it to cover their current budget, freeing up $1.6 million in local funding to build new synthetic turf fields for football, baseball and softball.

Athletics officials in the district of 1,800 students said the project was sorely needed to replace fields prone to heavy flooding. They touted the federal money as a chance to solve the problem without asking local taxpayers for funding.

“If we don’t do it now with this money, I’m not sure when we would ever do something like this,” athletic director Justin Crandall told the school board in May. “I don’t see us being a district that would go to a referendum for turf fields.”

Two school board members objected, with one raising concerns that just $400,000 was being used to address student learning loss — the minimum to meet a requirement that at least 20% goes toward that purpose.

The board approved the plan over those objections, and the new football field had its grand opening in September. District Superintendent Caroline Pate-Hefty declined to answer questions about the project.

Call me old-fashioned but athletic programs in schools should come in far behind the core reason we build classrooms and hire teachers. The academic mission should be front and center. Following what took place in schools nationwide in 2020 there should not be any district that fails to understand the first order of business is to get every child to the level they need to be at so as to advance further with learning.

Regardless of the state or school district, we should not need to read that coaches or athletic directors are number-crunching to see how federal funds in a pandemic can be used. Prioritizing sports programs over the academic needs of the students is a larger problem than just turfs over textbooks.

This is an example as to why there are always problems with large government programs, and it should bother all of us. As a liberal, I fully appreciate the power of government to act for the needs of the moment. Such robust legislative actions, as the COVID funding bills, do have a real meaningful impact. Many people needed and received a variety of assistance.

But it is also clear that large funded programs often are marred by problems due to too few restrictions, and when that happens it makes for a lack of confidence among the populace for future moments when needs arise. That is why it is essential for those of us who align with an active and robust central government to then demand the implementation of programs be as reflective of the original goal as can be attained.

In Congress, lawmakers from both parties say it’s wrong to use the money on sports. Democrats say it’s not what it was meant for, while Republicans say it’s a sign it wasn’t needed.

And so it goes.

The Trillion Dollar Coin? Thanks to Sen. Mitch McConnell and Conservatives….

I have been following the developments of the debt ceiling crisis and find the latest potential remedy something akin to a plot from a Robert Ludlum novel.

One ‘potential remedy’ to the dysfunctional political climate is to have the U.S. Mint strike a $1 trillion platinum coin. It would be minted within minutes at West Point and could be physically deposited at the New York Fed, that’s only a short helicopter ride away.

The Fed, once given the coin, would credit Treasury’s account with $1 trillion that would not count towards the national debt.

As I said, straight out of a Ludlum book.

The Washington Post writes this idea has been rejected.

As part of their internal review, White House officials have circulated internal memos with a range of untested theories should Congress fail to resolve the debt ceiling standoff, including the creation of a $1 trillion “coin” idea that has been popular among some liberals for years, the people said. But these options have been set aside as unworkable, the people said.

In the United States, Congress authorizes spending and sets taxing levels, and then separately sets a limit on how much the country can borrow. While Republicans like to spew over the debt ceiling matter, facts show Republican presidents have piled on more debt in the past 60 years than Democrats. They need to be responsible and increase the debt limit this week.

And the GOP should not think they are going to get some charm bracelet of goodies for simply doing their jobs! That behavior on the part of the conservatives will no longer be tolerated. Republicans need to get their hands dirty, too, and face up to the fiscal reality of the bills they have already passed. Like the moronic Trump tax bill that was an obscene giveaway to the wealthy.

Let us not mince words. A lack of increasing the debt limit would be a dramatic problem for the country! The international repercussions would send us into a recession.

So, would the government possibly consider the idea of a minted coin to stop the wreckage of the economy? Regardless of what has been stated thus far when the topic has been raised?

Paul Krugman wrote over the days in The New York Times his support for the idea.

Well, there’s a strange provision in U.S. law that empowers the Treasury secretary to mint and issue platinum coins in any quantity and denomination she chooses. Presumably the purpose of this provision was to allow the creation of coins celebrating people or events. But the language doesn’t say that. So on the face of it, Janet Yellen could mint a platinum coin with a face value of $1 trillion — no, it needn’t include $1 trillion worth of platinum — deposit it at the Federal Reserve and draw on that account to keep paying the government’s bills without borrowing.

Alternatively, Biden could simply declare that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which says that the validity of federal debt may not be questioned, renders the debt ceiling moot.

And there may be other tricks I don’t know about.

Would any of these approaches basically mean using silly gimmicks to avoid catastrophe? Possibly yes. But given the stakes, who cares if the approach sounds silly?

As for the thoughts of this blogger….well, the coin sounds supercharged with political and legal pitfalls. So perhaps we need to just pull the heads of the GOP from wherever and have them face facts.

Raising the debt limit has no direct impact on the size of the national debt. It has no impact either for more spending or freezing or restricting spending. The only thing that increasing the debt limit does is pay expenses previously authorized by presidents and Congress.

And so it goes.