Dale Lamborn, the superintendent of a somewhat threadbare rural school district, feels the pain of Utah’s economic crisis every day as he tinkers with his shrinking budget, struggling to avoid laying off teachers or cutting classes like welding or calculus.
Just across the border in Wyoming, a state awash in oil and gas money, James Bailey runs a wealthier district. It has a new elementary school and gives every child an Apple laptop.
But under the Obama administration’s education stimulus package, Mr. Lamborn, who needs every penny he can get, will receive hundreds of dollars less per student than will Dr. Bailey, who says he does not need the extra money.
“For us, this is just a windfall,” Dr. Bailey said.
In pouring rivers of cash into states and school districts, Washington is using a tangle of well-worn federal formulas, some of which benefit states that spend more per pupil, while others help states with large concentrations of poor students or simply channel money based on population. Combined, the formulas seem to take little account of who needs the money most.
As a result, some districts that are well off will find themselves swimming in cash, while some that are struggling may get too little to avoid cutbacks.