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Education Is a Surprise Big Winner in the Stimulus


I have to admit, I was pretty surprised yesterday.

Even though state lawmakers and advocates for schools were asking for some pretty big money for education, and even though I was hearing rumors about it, I never expected to see such a huge chunk of the proposed stimulus going to education. It's somewhere in the neighborhood of $120 billion to $141 billion, for both K-12 and higher ed. (The full bill, and some helpful explanatory language, is on the House Appropriations Committee's Web site).

It's absolutely staggering, especially when you consider that the entire budget for the Department of Education, including money for student loans and other mandatory programs was $68 billion in fiscal year 2008, the most recent budget. So, the stimulus would almost double that. Wow.

It seems that, even though it didn't get much play on the campaign trail, the incoming administration and the new Congress see education as a priority. Often, education plays second fiddle to health care and other programs in the appropriations process, but not this time. I haven't done a full analysis of the bill myself, but according to this story, education got the biggest chunk.

The stimulus, though, is more than just a huge, huge spending bill. It's our very first indication of the direction that the incoming Obama administration and the new beefed-up congressional Democratic majority might take education spending and policy.

It's no surprise that special education and Title I money for disadvantaged kids were the big winners among K-12 programs, with a proposed $13 billion apiece. But some of the smaller appropriations might give us an indication about the new administration and Congress' thinking. For instance:

- The Teacher Incentive Fund, which doles out pay-for-performance money to districts would get $200 million, more than double its funding for in fiscal 2008. My colleague, Steve Sawchuk, has a post over at Teacher Beat on that provision.

But what I found interesting was that the TIF, as it's known, actually got twice as much money as the Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants. Those grants finance the teacher residency programs that were a key part of candidate Obama's platform. The TQE was still a big winner, with $100 million proposed, compared with its $33 million in fiscal 2008. But the difference in those two programs might say something about the new Congress and administration's thinking on teacher quality. Do they prefer performance pay over residency programs?

- There's $250 million proposed for state data systems to track student progress. The data is supposed to be studied to figure out ways to boost student achievement. Although that figure is dwarfed by the funding for IDEA and Title I, it's still a pretty big chunk of change.

- Mike Petrilli has a great post calling the stimulus Christmas in January, in part because there's so much money with almost no strings for schools and states.

Actually, there are a few strings, although they're attached to a relatively small slice of the money. I'm still looking into this, but they seem to show that the Obama administration and Congress don't appear to be backing down (at least not yet) on some NCLB requirements.

Under the stimulus bill, in order to qualify for $15 billion in grants for education, states would have to show they are making progress on some NCLB-related goals, including:

- Addressing inequities in the distribution of teachers in low and high poverty schools

- Establishing a state longitudinal data system

- Complying with the requirements in NCLB related to improving assessments, including those for students with disabilities and English language learners

Will all this actually pass? Some of it will, but we're still pretty early in the process and no one should expect House Republicans (and maybe even some conservative Dems) to swallow so much spending without a fight. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner's comment on the bill, according to the Post's story:

"Oh my God," he told reporters. "My notes here say that I'm disappointed. I just can't tell you how shocked I am at what I'm seeing."


I have to say I am very mixed on this. I am conservative in my views, but am an advocate that kids get the best possible education.

What it comes down to for me is that we have this incredibly massive debt we can never repay; regardless of where the money goes, it is just plain wrong the extent of it.

I work in the gaming industry. A lot of our innovation translates into use for other, critical industries (such as AI for computers, etc). My company has laid of 10% of the workforce in the past three months. But, then, we don't have a massive union lobbying the government for money, so we will never be 'helped'.

Don't get me wrong, I agree that education is vital. I just don't see why MY tax dollars (and now my great-great grandchildrens' as well) have to pay for some school MY kids are not even going to, in some state I don't live in.

Yet all of those folks who are getting part of the pie are lauding praise and thanks to the congress who have managed to secure the next round of votes in one fell swoop.

I suppose I should best stop complaining though. In the end, it doesn't matter what I, as a voter, say. I it is what the elected officials say is best fir us. We as a people are clueless lemmings being led to the cliff- but as long as Uncle Sugar continues to pour the green over us we are placated.


I feel more keenly the need for support of public education having had the experience of being a parent--but it didn't start there. I have always seen public education as not only the cornerstone of democracy (preparing citizens for participation), but also the means by which us old people ensure that there are young people able to care for us the manner to which we are accustomed. This means ongoing concern for the preparation of doctors and nurses and insurance salespeople and investment brokers and researchers and developers--as well as folks to flip my burger and count out the correct change. I don't want to live in a world that consigns classes of people to the ugliness (slavery, poverty, disease, ignorance) that rises up when each of us is only willing to take responsibility for their own household.

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