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
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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 comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Hameed's picture

I am an Software Specialist, I hold a B.E Computer Science Degree and we did somany projects for major schools that are located in Uganda and Kenya

Hameed's picture

I am a Software Specialist and hold B.E with Computer Science Engineering and we have done so many projects for major schools in uganda and kenya

Jeannie's picture

In my area the monies dedicated to Special Education are being rerouted to other areas and the Special Ed budget cut by 50%. Very sad for those of us with Sped kids.

Karen's picture

I agree. I have not been in the program that long. But it's not fair how little we all make for the efforts we put forward. We received that money last year and they are issuing out this year. And the bad thing is that not all classroom staff is receiving it. Our CEO/President (yes he's getting paid for 2 positions)have put stipulations on who gets it and who don't. That is not fair. I wish I had a number to report them. They held the funds for a year to draw the interest and put it in their own pockets and told us if we missed more than 5 days we did not qualify and now it's if we had less than 37.5 hours in sick leave we did not qualify. It's a bunch of mess. Anything to hold others to a certain limit. I thought that grant was for everyone.

Karen's picture

I have been in the program for a while. And I thought the stimulus was for every classroom staff. But our CEO/President(yes he's holding two positions) has put stipulations on the money. If you miss more than 5 days you do not qualify for the money and now it's if you have 37.5 hours or less in sick leave you do not qualify. That's not fair. Obama gave us that money last year and they have held it in a bank account to draw the interest and now only certain classroom staff is receiving it. And that is not fair. How you gone put stipulations on something that was required for all classroom staff. I wish I had a number to report them.

Debra Ford's picture

I have been teaching for 9 years in Special Education in a Title Low Income School. I too missed the loan forgiveness, not by years, but by two months. I feel that it is unfair to us teachers who are trying to make a difference. Why does it matter when the loan was taken out? It should only matter that we are teaching in the low income areas and in a shortage area. The Government needs to look into this problem and eliminate the dates of loans and focus only on the service we are providing.

Clyde Heath's picture

I am a yoyo professional that speaks to 140,000 kids at over 400 schools annually. I have shared our positive character education with over a million kids world wide and want to return to school to become a school counselor. I can't afford tuition - any ideas?
Thx, Clyde

Nick Carlisle's picture

What teacher do you know in the U.S. make a "ton of money". This is not true. I am not saying your family member should not make more but teachers are under paid and over worked as many Americans.

Nick Carlisle's picture

Teachers are over worked and under paid just like many others. In addition we do not make a "ton" of money. I am not saying that your family member should not make more because they do. However we are also under paid.

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