680 hours, 58 minutes left

What do you get when schools are on vacation, lawmakers are in recess, and readers are distracted by the holidays? Fluff. This Boxing Day, New York Times readers were treated to a titillating story--on page A14 no less--about the number of hours the federal Department of Education estimates it will take states to complete their Race to the Top applications. Let’s just say that states have their work cut out for them. 681 hours worth. (Sam Dillon, author of the piece, allays confusion thusly: “Not 680, not 700, but 681 hours.”) How much is that in HR terms? One fulltime civil servant working for seventeen weeks. And it’s 39 more hours than July’s time estimate, since the Department says the rules have become more complicated. Such estimates seem to be required by the Office of Budget and Management, though ED says states are free to spend more or less time on their applications. As for the states, most find the number laughably low, having already devoted many more hours to this task. Ah, the holiday season. Now, how will you recoup the two minutes you just spent reading this?

Extra Homework Applying for Education Grants,” by Sam Dillon, New York Times, December 26, 2009