Billions and Billions, Part 2: A Look at Education “Stimulus” Funding

In this weblog post, I am continuing the discussion started yesterday when I invoked Carl Sagan’s signature phrase, “Billions and Billions.”  Today I want to look at the budget that the U.S. Department of Education will have as part of the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Firstly, here is a graphic showing how the $115 billion that the Department of Education will receive will be distributed.  Note that $53.6 billion will go to state aid for more than 14,000 school districts around the nation.  The next largest piece is for an increase in Pell Grants, which provides scholarships for college to students from low-income families. Title I, and special education also will be funded at about 12 billion each.  

Graphic showing distribution of funds from the U.S. Department of Education

Graphic showing distribution of funds from the U.S. Department of Education

Additional funding areas shown in the graphic include Head Start, Child Care, technology, teacher quality and other areas.  

You can get a quick synopsis of how funds might impact education around the nation by reading the fact sheet issued by the U.S. Department of Education.  If you are teacher, you can link to the Department’s website, and find out how much your school district is estimated to receive in funds.  Link here to the Committee on Education & Labor, and you will be able to examine the distribution of funds to each state, and each district within the states.  

A good source of information, commentary, and criticism is Education Week.  In particular to link to the Schools and Stimulus page, and find ongoing information and comments. 

This a lot of money that is being distributed to various educational establishments and programs in the USA.  Will the money be used wisely, and how will these huge sums impact the nature of education, and at the same time help “stimulate” the economy, and provide jobs, and opportunities?  These are crucial questions that are difficult to answer.  For example, the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan will have available a discretionary fund of about $5 billion in incentive grants to be distributed on a competitive basis to states that most aggressively pursue higher standards, quality assessments, robust data systems and teacher quality initiatives.  This includes $650 million to fund school systems and non-profits with strong track records of improving student achievement.

Although it difficult to know exactly how these funds will be used, it appears that these funds will be used to support the standards-based approaches to teaching and learning that this weblog has been an active critic.  Hopefully, the Department of Education will generate RFP’s that encourage some deviation from state standards for schools and districts that believe that local control of education and deep understanding of the nature of students that they serve will lead to a quality education.  Will the status-quo be preserved, or will reform emerge from this new source of funding?  What do you think?

About Jack Hassard

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