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A pot of gold for schools?

President Barack Obama's stimulus package targets big bucks for education. Here's where they're headed.

By Karina Kinik

Call it learning in lean times: Many of the nation's public schools have taken a hit as states grappling with the economic crisis have made drastic budget reductions, leading to education program cuts, deferred spending on facilities, and teacher layoffs. But with the passage of the federal economic stimulus bill — the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provides some $115 billion in new education funding — financial help is on the way to the country's 14,000 school districts.

Much of the money goes directly to state budgets

Nearly $80 billion will go directly to states, though governors will need to make assurances their states are meeting education-reform criteria to receive certain funds; the first round of money should be available within the next four weeks. What impact will this aid have on schools in your community? At this point, exact figures for local districts are unknown — estimates for several programs can be found on the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor's EdLabor Journal blog — and specific projects have yet to be approved, but here is an overview of the major education-related allocations.

K-12

Funds to prevent layoffs and program cutbacks

$53.6 billion for the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund

To address budget shortfalls in K-12 schools and higher education, the stimulus bill establishes a fund that will be disbursed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The bulk of the money, $39.5 billion, will go to state governments to prevent or reverse layoffs and program cuts. But because it will be distributed using existing funding formulas that rely on population data and therefore tend to favor bigger school districts and states with higher per-pupil spending, some districts may not reap as many benefits as others. According to the Ed Money Watch blog, published by the nonpartisan public policy institute New America Foundation, allocations will vary widely based on total stimulus funding per student and Title I (see below) funding per low-income student. Of the 50 largest school districts the blog analyzed, the Detroit City School District will receive the most in total stimulus dollars per student ($1,914) and Texas's Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District will receive the least ($240). "For many of these districts, particularly those with large impoverished populations," writes Jennifer Cohen, "stimulus dollars may significantly increase their per pupil expenditures. How this money will be spent, however, is yet to be seen. That will be the true test of the stimulus package and its impact on education."

As for private schools, at the states' discretion they could receive money for services such as remedial math and reading instruction for disadvantaged students and support for special needs kids, but the funds cannot be spent on tuition and vouchers or modernizing private school facilities. Public charter schools that currently receive aid through funding formulas for Title I, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, see below) and other programs should receive their share of stimulus money.

Karina Kinik is an associate editor for GreatSchools.


Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

03/19/2009:
"What about the virtual online schools? The parents are at home asssisting their kids as a Learning Coach. These public schools deserve to be a part of the Stimulus Plan, too. "
03/19/2009:
"Reading through this article, it is quite obvious that this is all redistribution of wealth, according to Obama. Almost all this money will benefit 'low Income' and 'disadvantaged', coming out of the pockets of those who do pay taxes. I have no problem with helping people, but they need to show they want to help themselves. The article states that Detroit schools systems will be receiving the largest amount of aid. This is interesting since Detroit is one of the worst performing education systems in the US and has the highest per teacher and student spending in the US. Throwing money at the education issue, doesn't make it better, but revamping those that administrate the schools does. The charter schools are a perfect example of success, however Mr. Obama doesn't want to support the school voucher system that allows 'low income' 'disadvantaged' children the choice to go to these schools. Maybe they are better off staying victims and relying on the government to help ! them. The reason a website like Great Schools is doing well, is because of the parents that actually care about taking the time to research their kids academic options. BTW, how exactly is this going to 'Stimulate' the economy? BTW, homeschooling is the least expensive and the most successful."
03/19/2009:
"I agree that parents should be involved, however, it would be helpful if the teachers of the younger students send parents information on their method of teaching so that parents can follow the same teaching method at home. This will avoid confusion for the kids. For instance, if multiplication is being introduced and the teacher teaches the kids tips and tricks in solving the problem then the kids have homework and the parent is teaching them a different way, the kids will gets confused and they will not learn. "
03/19/2009:
"How about Obama teaching kids what a Million really is? A Billion? A Trillion? We should be worried about teaching our kids what Obama and the drunken spending congress is actually doing to the future of the country and their future? What is he and his cohorts ACTUALLY giving to our kids. Huge, inconceivable mountains and mountains of debt. The Bush administration spent way too much and now Obama will spend more in 20 months than the overspending Bush did in 8 years? That is staggering! How can educated people not see this? Let's teach our kids about personal resposibility, financcial responsibility, TRUE educational importance and then we can fix the ailing educational system and bring this country back to greatness. Unbelieveable! The public schools should be looking at excellent examples of charter schools that have risen to the top of rankings while spending much less per student than public school districts with broken budgets and fat administrations. Take a look at ! BASIS Tucson charter school and then take a look at the schools in Tucson Unified School District. It is pathetic to keep pouring money into broken systems without true efforts of reform."
03/19/2009:
"Please allow me to talk to our President, you can give all schools all the money to fix the school and create all type of programs possible. This is an extended band-aid over a wound that can not heal on a diabetic who continues to eat cake and pies. The root of the problem starts at home and than branched out to all other stockholders. Majority of the students have no respect for anyone and all parents are sue happy looking for a quick financial fix to their personal problems. Unfortuantely, our congress has allowed the rules and ill policies to dominate. That money should be held until a solution is derived at how to commit the students to leaning and support for the teachers who administer the information. Unfortunately, teachers hands are tied by administration whose hands are tied by testing, who hands are dominated by the superintendent whose hands are tied by the Board, who are told by the parents (all of their friends) what to do. If you want honesty call me."
03/19/2009:
"HOW MUCH STIMULOUS MONEY WILL GO TO CHARTER SCHOOLS?"
03/19/2009:
"They need money right now, though. This year, it is inevitable that the performing arts curriculum will suffer devastating cuts before any of this will come into play. The damage will be done before the money gets to the schools in our area. Next week, big cuts will happen, not be talked about, but will happen. Looks like it's gonna get here too late."
03/19/2009:
" I AM A PARENT/GRANDPARENT AND LIVE IN FLORIDA. WE HAVE A LOTTERY WHICH WAS VOTED ON BY THE PEOPLE TO ENHANCE EDUCATION. THE STATE GOVEMENT HAS CUT THE BUDGET EVERY YEAR AND HAS TAKEN MONEY FROM THE LOTTERY FOR OTHER USES. OUR STATE IS NOW 48TH IN THE NATION IN EDUCATION BECAUSE OF ALL THE BUDGET CUTS. THE PEOPLE ALSO VOTED ON CLASS SIZES AND NOW THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT ENLARGEING THE CLASE SIZES. IT JUST DOSN'T SEEM TO MATTER IF THE LAWS ARE ON TH BOOKS. THE GOVERMENT CAN DO WHAT EVER THEY WANT. THEY WAY THE MONEY IS SPENT IN FLORIDA IS THE SCHOOLS THAT HAVE HE BEST FCAT SCORES GET MORE MONEY AND THE ONES WITH THE LOWEST SCORES GET LESS. THIS IS BACKWARDS. THEY NEED BETTER TEACHING EQUIPMENT TO HELP BRING UP THEIR SCORES. AND SPEAKING OF THE FCAT, THIS NEEDS TO BE JUNKED. IF IT WAS USED AS A TEACHING TOOL SO THEY WOULD KNOW WHAT EACH STUDENT NEEDS HELP IT WOULD BE OK. BUT IN FLORIDA IF YOU DON'T PASS THE FCAT YOU CANNOT GRADUATION. IF A STUDENT HAS PASSING GRADES TH! AT SHOULD BE ALL THE STUDENT NEEDS."
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