Schools Not Spending the School Stimulus

Rather than use their $10 billion lifeline to hire new teachers, many schools are pocketing the money to ensure that they'll have enough cash to keep their current teachers for next year. Scandal!

The New York Times sees this as an implicit failure, using the menu headline: Given Stimulus Funds to Rehire, Schools Wait and See. Let's be fair. Advocates of the education stimulus -- or bailout, or life boat, or whatever you want to call it -- consistently framed it as a stopgap rather than a supplement. The bill was designed to lessen the blow. So when school officials tell the paper of record they're using the money to, and I quote, "lessen the blow," I'd say that's in keeping with the law's mission.

That said, the story is an interesting glimpse into the mindset of a balance sheet recession. The news that schools are parking their bums on billions in federal dollars recalls the ubiquitous statistic that non-financial companies are sitting on $1.8 trillion in cash, waiting for the economy to perk up before spending the pile down on new hires and factories. The stimulus cut hundreds of billions of dollars in checks for both working folks (Making Work Pay) and out-of-work folks (unemployment insurance and food stamps), but much this money has gone to paying down debt rather than buying new homes and furniture. The Great Recession built on debt is ending not with the bang of boisterous buying, but the whimper of waiting.