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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

$100 Billion to Education in Obama's Stimulus Package

Despite uncertainties, some trends emerge in the federal government's plans for school spending.
By Alexandra R. Moses
Credit: iStock

The $100 billion in education monies in the economic-stimulus package aims to stem huge cuts by states, fund programs for special education, low-income students, and early-childhood initiatives, and provide incentive to everyone, from teachers to state officials, to think in terms of reform.

Congress approved the $787 billion economic stimulus bill on Friday, and President Obama is expected to sign it Tuesday. The money for education will help President Obama make good on promises to help the nation's K-12 schools, though it's about $50 billion less than the first draft passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and leaves open a lot of questions about when and how the money will be distributed -- and whether it will be enough. The majority of the difference came from losing school-construction money and decreasing the amount states will get.

Here's what we do know:

Under the bill, states will get $53.6 billion in what's called the state stabilization fund. Most of that money (about $39 billion) goes toward helping states restore cut programs, which, depending on the state, have included early-childhood education, after-school programs, professional-development money, and actual school staff. That money will go out more quickly, based on a formula, so schools aren't left wondering if they have to shorten their school year this year or make staff layoffs for the next school year.

Stripped from the bill is money for school construction. The funding, about $17 billion in the version first passed by the House, was a huge obstacle for the U.S. Senate and stayed out when the bill got through a compromise committee. Instead, states can draw from $8.8 billion in the state stabilization fund for high-priority needs.

In what the Obama administration considers its reform piece of the stimulus package, there's $5 billion in incentive grants, which U.S. education secretary Arne Duncan calls "race to the top" money. Logically, this money won't be available until 2010, after states are able to put their stabilization funds in place. To get a grant, a state has to show how it's in compliance with a few measures under the No Child Left Behind Act already required under the law. They also have to put in place a statewide data system to measure student progress and make sure their standards lead students to college or other postsecondary training.

The grant does leave open a few questions, including how states will prove they're doing everything right, and what they'll do with their incentive money. Duncan says it's intended to make students and schools more competitive globally. Also included in the $5 billion is $650 million for more innovative programs, to "scale up what works" in schools, Duncan adds. How that money will get doled out is unclear.

"We have to educate our way to a better economy," Duncan says. "This represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something."

Other money in the stimulus package for education:

  • $2.1 billion for Early Head Start and Head Start, the early-childhood programs for low-income children ages 0-5. It's estimated this funding will affect about 124,000 infants and preschool children.
  • $13 billion for Title I, the program that aids schools with a high number of low-income students to help fund extra programs.
  • $12.2 billion for IDEA, a program for special education grants.
  • $200 million for the Teacher Incentive Fund, which supports programs for teacher-performance pay.
Alexandra R. Moses is a freelance writer in the Washington, DC, area who specializes in education.

Comments (40)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Jamie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a single mom just beginning the stages of pursuing my MBA degree. After receiving my Bachelors, I am already $84,000 in student loan debt-no grants or scholarships, all loans. How am I to think of getting my MBA after all that money I have to repay? The way the economy is, how am I supposed to support my son and I on $12 hr and repay $100K in student loan debt? I work two jobs and still can't make ends meet. Where is all this "help" they talk about for us???? Any suggestions would be helpful! Thanks!

Jeanette Barron's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I got down-sized from a pharmaceutical job in 08. I started working with a fundraising company and they went bankrupt in 09. I decided to go back to school for a second degree in education. While going back to school, I am working 3rd shift making $12 a hour, paying for school, and raising a family of 3 girls. I am so tired from working all night, going to school during the day and then taking care of my family. I am becoming physically drained. I will not give up school because I am trying to better my life for my myself and my family. What is there to do? Is there any help? Can you collect unemployment and go to school full-time? Please help with answers, because my husband and I don't have anymore.

Glenn M's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Well, there you go! Another OPINION which shows absolutely NO empathy for those who started with less and are trying to pull themselves up by their bootstaps. Do some research on how the GI bill affected the economy and social structure of the US after World War II. Government intervention which invests SUBSTANTIALLY in education WORKS to the benefit of all.

Paul's picture

How will this bill help low-income students to achieve a degree? What colleges, universities and career specific schools get funding? How is this calculated and determined?

Racial Victim's picture

States that deny any child access to classrooms and hallway restrooms should not be allowed access to any federal money.
My son reported two years of violence against him by african american kids in Delaware schools and then the district rewarded him by telling him in writing that he could not go to any classes if a substitute was in the room and he was only allowed to use the nurse's restroom. I assume this would be called segregation if he had been african american but as far as Delaware and the federal government are concerned it is ok with them.

Racial Victim's picture

I would like to know what college and what type of BS degree results in 84k of student loans. I thought this type of debt was usually from becoming a doctor or lawyer. They have programs for forgive loans in which someone can never make enough money to repay these loans, they will have you make minimum payments for ten years then forgive the remainder.

dontcry's picture

Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful and beneficial to your readers.

Ron's picture

As always, a government whose own ills are institutional (such as the dysfunctional and bipartisan house and their equally polarized and ignorant political parties), assumes that education's woes are due to the institution of education rather than the society in which it functions.
No Child Left Behind is destined to be an abysmal failure due to the fact that it hangs its frumpy hat on the premise that multiple choice, standardized testing is a valid evaluation of actual student performance. Its focus on only core area learning also shows a fatal flaw.
Personally, as an educator of 22 years, the premise of early childhood classes has not impressed me as student ability falls each year due to our society. As programs such as music and art are discounted or discontinued, while what is essentially day care is lauded, our students lose out on educational opportunities. Also, until society values education in its media, conduct and expectations, schools will continue to suffer with indifferent and under motivated students. There has been a frightening and discouraging shift in attitude toward education since my childhood in the '60's to now. A simple example would be to watch 'Leave it to Beaver' in which good grades were an expectation of the 'boys' to today's sit-coms in which ignorance backed by a dull brain and smart mouth is the goal of every child (Bart).
Also, where in a bankrupt government is all of this money going to come from?

Chris C's picture

GET RID THE WORSE THING TO EVER HAppEN!!!! TEST Dont tell you nothing true knowledge is not in man made test. But the experience you get from all around us?

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