Education and the Economic Recovery Bill

Today I want to focus on how education will play a crucial role in the Economic Recovery & Reinvestment Bill, and will focus on education and schooling, as well as some comments about science education.

Firstly, the amount of funds being directed into the education sector of the economy is enormous.  Depending upon which fact sheet, spread sheet, or information page on the US government servers you visit, the amount to be invested in education ranges from $98 billion to $140 billion.  I am going to look at education funding from three standpoints or areas of funding:

  • Direct Funding for Education
  • College Affordability
  • School Modernization

The most reliable source of information regarding how funds will be used in education can be found at the the U.S. Department of Education website.  You can view a PDF file of the budget as of 2/23/09 and see how the funds are distributed in the first three categories listed above.  The spread sheet shows that $98.2 billion will be invested in U.S. education, K – college.  Briefly here are some things to consider.

Direct Funding for Education

In this category, $77 billion will be available as “state stablilization” funds ($40 billion) to avert cuts, as well as to modernize schools with, for example, technology investments.  There is also funding for special education including $13 billion for Title I, and $12 billion for The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  An additional $5 billion has been included for Early Childhood, including Head Start.  As an incentive to encourage schools to “pursue higher standards” $5 billion will be announced as incentive grants, as I understand it, at the discretion of the Secretary of Education.

College Affordability

To help college students from low to moderate-income families, the Federal Pell Grant Program has increased the amounts available to students by $500 from $4850 to $5350.  There is also a provision for a tuition tax credit in the bill form many families (earning up to $180,000).

School Modernization

Funds will available to help modernize educational facilities, including renovation, repairs, and school construction.  Total amounts here are roughly $33 billion.

What about science education? None of the programs outlined here specifically mention science education.  You have to look elsewhere in the Economic Recovery & Reinvestment Bill to find specifics regarding science education, and the best place to look is to start with the National Science Foundation (NSF).  NSF will receive $3 billion.  According to the Appropriations Committee, the funds will be used expand employment in the fundamental sciences and engineering, build major research facilities, purchase equipment used and shared by major universities, repair and modernize science and engineering research facilities, and $100 million to improve instruction in science, math, and engineering. My guess is that these funds will be used to achieve some of the goals to improve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education for all students, as outlined in a letter from the National Science Board to President Obama.  Although you might not agree with all of the recommendations, or the Board’s natural support for a standards-based approach to curriculum, what is of value here is the central importance of teachers in education, and without attracting interesting and dedicated women and men to teaching, the whole enterprise of education suffers.

About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University