By KRISTI E. SWARTZ
Without the $1.5 billion in federal stimulus money that’s started flowing to Georgia school districts, the budget cuts to education would be “devastating,” School Superintendent Kathy Cox told a senate panel Thursday morning.
“They’re down to the bone,” Cox said. “The fat was gone a long time ago. They’re down to the bone.”
Cox is staring at a 20 percent budget cut that she knows will increase as the state struggles to pull out of a recession. Yet, she’s under pressure to account for every dollar in stimulus money that’s been flowing into the state and down to school districts.
“We’re struggling to ensure that we’re going to have that transparency and accountability and trying not to get caught two years from now with federal auditors saying, ‘Why didn’t you know.’”
She’s not the only one feeling that heat. The senators who gathered as part of the Committee on Smart Recovery all had the same question:
Where is the federal stimulus money going in Georgia, and who’s in charge of that?
“With (the stimulus package) hopefully some of the jobs will trickle down to the counties that need it the most,” said Sen. Freddie Sims, (D-Dawson) “But we tend to see in Georgia that those dollars tend to stop in certain areas of the state and do not trickle down.”
Sims’ southwest Georgia district is among the poorest in the state.
“Who is in charge of dispensing them and how can we get a piece of the pie,” she asked.