This Just In: Education Plays Key Role in Stimulus Package

This Just In: Education Plays Key Role in Stimulus Package

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Updated on Feb 23, 2009

Editor's Note: This article was written prior to the finished bill. For a more recent article about the stimulus package, click here.

President Obama's campaign stump on education went like this: “No Child Left Behind left the money behind.”

Now, after the House passed an $819 billion economic stimulus package that includes $150 billion for education, the new administration is walking the walk—albeit on eggshells, as Obama courts Republicans for votes. The House behind them, package is now in the hands of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and, once approved, will be passed to the floor so the full Senate can vote on it.

Why should you care? Well, for one, the package would more than double the budget for the Department of Education. Public schools haven’t experienced such a shot in the arm since just after World War II.

How does that $150 billion break down? Here are some of the highlights:

  • School Renovation and Modernization: $20 billion. This money will repair, renovate and construct public schools in ways that will raise energy efficiency and provide greater access to information technology.
  • Education Technology: $1 billion. This money would create computer and science labs, and provide teacher technology training.
  • Improved Teacher Quality: $300 million. Includes $200 million in incentive money for teachers and administrators who raise student achievement in high-need schools and $100 million for competitive grants to states, in order to address teacher shortages and modernize the workforce.
  • Title I Program for Disadvantaged Children and Special Education Students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (part of No Child Left Behind): $26 billion. For the past eight years, the U.S. Government has only been funding 17 percent of the 40 percent it promised for student with disabilities. The stimulus package would bump that up to 27 percent.
  • Head Start: $2.1 billion. The bill would give an additional 110,000 students access to the Head Start program, based on need.
  • Child Care Development Block Grant: $2 billion. This would provide child care services to an additional 300,000 children from low-income families.
  • Spending on Pell Grants:  $15.6 billion. This would increase the maximum Pell Grant by $500, from $4,850 to $5,350
  • State Stabilization Fund: $79 billion. This money is set aside to fix immediate budget problems. Of this, $39 billion is meant for K-12 and higher education and $15 billion is to go towards State Education Performance Grants—competitive grants chosen based on a school's success in creating data systems, distributing teachers, and improving assessments for special education and English-language learners.

Those for and against the bill agree: it's a lot of money.

But, don’t be fooled, says Mike Griffith, senior school finance analyst for the Education Commission of the States, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization for state officials that oversee education, this will not create a windfall for most schools: “There’s this weird misconception that this is like a lottery check, and that suddenly their state department of education is going to get billions of dollars.” In fact, he says, the money is being spread out over so many states and projects, that it really won’t equal much of a bonus at all. Instead, the bill will work to cancel out the effects of a negative economy—making sure the quality of education for all children in maintained.

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