It was dumb enough for Republican governors like Mark Sanford of South Carolina, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Bob Riley of Alabama and Rick Perry of Texas to turn down stimulus money designated for their states.
But for Sarah Palin to jump on this bandwagon to nowhere is way beyond dumb. She has already drawn enough criticism in Alaska for “putting her national political aspirations ahead of the state’s interests”. She has seen Sanford et al being roundly criticized on precisely these grounds. And she presides over a state which practically specializes in accepting federal government dollars. But here she is, refusing to accept a significant chunk of Alaska’s stimulus funds.
Gov. Sarah Palin is refusing to accept more than 30 percent of the federal economic stimulus money being offered to Alaska, including dollars for schools, energy assistance and social services.
Palin is not taking about $288 million of the $930.7 million that Alaska is due in the federal stimulus. Palin said she is accepting the federal stimulus money that would go for construction projects, but not funding directed at government operations.
The biggest single chunk of money that Palin is turning down is about $170 million for education, including money that would go for programs to help economically disadvantaged and special needs students. Anchorage School Superintendent Carol Comeau said she is “shocked and very disappointed” that Palin would reject the schools money. She said it could be used for job preservation, teacher training, and helping kids who need it.
In case you were wondering how well does Alaska’s school system serve its residents, here’s how the Alaska Daily News reported it last November:
Battling one of the worst dropout rates in the country, Alaska educators gathered for a third day on Saturday to brainstorm how to stop the epidemic of kids quitting school before earning their diplomas. They called dropping out a result of an accumulative failure, which can start before kids even enter school.
“This is a social issue, one we all own,” said Association of Alaska School Boards executive director Carl Rose. “We all need to take some responsibility in this.”
Among the grim statistics:
• Alaska’s dropout rate, at 8 percent, was double the national average in the 2005-2006 school year, according to the latest figures available from the U.S. Department of Education.
• 38 percent of today’s ninth-graders will have no high school diploma 10 years from now, according to the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education.
• Alaska ranks 50th, or last, in the number of ninth-graders who will likely have a bachelor’s degree in 10 years, according to the commission.
So why would Palin turn down stimulus money her constituents desperately need?
It’s just fascinating. Palin has never seen a federal dollar she didn’t want, but now that some other far-right governors are trying to turn down economic recovery aid — governors who might challenge her for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination — Palin suddenly sees the benefit in turning down money that might help stimulate the Alaskan economy.
Incidentally, Palin had first announced that she is turning down nearly half the stimulus money, but that number apparently somehow included Medicaid money she is actually accepting.