The Associated Press did a masterful job of portraying Republican Governors as perpetrating "noncompliance" for how they want to spend Obama's education stimulus money. But, even as the AP spends the top half of a story wagging fingers at those nasty Republicans for not spending Obama's generous gift the right way, buried in the story it is revealed that the fault is really with how the stimulus bill was written, not in how GOP governors wish to spend it. Ah, but it's much better to make Republicans look like bad guys than it is to blame Democrat Congressmen for writing a bad bill, isn't it?
Even worse, the point AP is trying to promulgate is that these evil governors are hurting "the children" by not spending on education the way Obama says they should. Yes, the AP and the Obama administration are again hiding massive increases in federal control behind help for "the children." It's agenda journalism at its finest... or worst, depending on your point of view.
For the AP, our old pal Libby Quaid scolds some governors for having "other ideas" about how to spend the stimulus cash instead of using that money for teachers and she warns that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan "threatens retaliation for noncompliance."
President Obama promises his economic stimulus will save hundreds of thousands of teaching jobs, but some states could end up spending the money on playground equipment or wallpaper - and the president might not have the authority to stop them.
Ah, yes, the president is powerless in the face of these mean Republicans. She reports that tough talkin' Dunkin is going to "come down like a ton of bricks" on any state that "defies the administration's plans to bring relief to states like California, where 26,500 teachers have gotten pink slips."
So, who are these low down governors that refuse to listen to their Lord and Masters in D.C.? Why it's "Republican governors," of course.
But plans for the money are pulling in other directions, particularly in states with Republican governors: Governor Linda Lingle of Hawaii wants to fill a budget gap, Governor Butch Otter of Idaho wants to hold the money in reserve; and Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina wants to pay down debt. His request has been turned down by the White House Budget Office.
Can't you just feel the AP's Quaid shaking her fist in the air as if she were Snoopy damning that evil Red Baron? (Does that reference date me?)
But wait a minute. How is it that these rotten Republicans are being so cavalier with Obama's money for teachers? We don't find out until the penultimate paragraph why that is.
The law was written so broadly that most of the stabilization dollars can be spent on just about anything - carpet, wallpaper, playground equipment, even new school construction - which might bother Senate moderates who insisted on dropping a school construction program before they would vote for the bill. That's because school districts can spend the money as federal impact aid, a relatively small program for poorly funded districts. By contrast, most federal education dollars are supposed to be spent on teacher salaries or academics. "Congress opened a Pandora's Box to allow districts to use the funds for impact aid," said Michael Brustein, a Washington lawyer who represents several state education agencies. "How you enforce against that is anyone's guess."
So wait a minute, honey. The bill was "written so broadly"? You whipped up the high dudgeon against these Republicans for half the story until you inform us that they really aren't violating any restrictions on the spending because the law is "written so broadly"? And the fact is that even the state school systems themselves can override Obama's favored spending for teachers?
Then Quaid gives tough talkin' Dunkin the last word:
Duncan said he can come down hard on states that don't comply because he is releasing the money in installments, and because he will award billions of dollars in competitive grants later this year.
This is just so much hot air and useless bravado if the bill is written in such a way that the states can spend the cash on other things anyway. Duncan can't do anything about "compliance" if the law itself gives the states the right to make other arrangements.
In truth the entire focus on the story should be that Congressional Democrats did not give Obama what he wanted on targeted spending. It is incidental that these Republican governors and school systems are spending on different things than teacher retention because the permission to do so is right in the bill.
Instead of a headline that puts the onus on the states and a first half of the story making it seem like it is Republican governors violating the spirit of the stimulus, the whole thing should have been about how the Democrats in Congress muffed the spending requirements.
This is Nancy Pelosi's fault, this is Harry Reid's fault. This is ALSO Barack Obama's fault for taking no part in the creation of this bill, instead allowing Congressional Democrats to write the whole thing (without any input from Republicans, by the way).
But, once again we see the Associated Press covering for Obama -- making him seem blameless and unable to thwart these darned old Republican governors -- and the Democrat controlled Congress, even though it is they that muffed it all in crafting this bill.