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Stimulus Questions Answered, Round 4: More on What the Money Can be Used For

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Schools and the Stimulus
We're still fielding your stimulus questions. Check out Round 1, Round 2, and Round 3.

1. There's money for "school improvement" that the National Education Association is breaking down to show how much will go to each state. What can that money be used for?

The school improvement money is part of a program originally authorized under the No Child Left Behind Act that’s meant to help states revamp schools that are struggling to meet the goals of the law. Like Title I and IDEA, it’s a formula-program, so everyone gets a piece. In doling out the money, states are supposed to give priority to districts that have the greatest need and a commitment to closing the achievement gap. The program received $3 billion in the stimulus package, and it’s slated to get over $500 million under the fiscal year 2009 spending bill being considered in Congress. That’s a whole lot of cash, considering that the program wasn’t funded at all until fiscal year 2007. In fiscal year 2008, it got just $491 million total.

2. Where can non-profit organizations get more information with regard to the following funds referenced online by Rep. Miller: "At the urging of Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, the [stimulus package] sets aside $650 million for school districts or districts in partnership with nonprofit groups. This could include charter schools or other programs with a track record of boosting achievement."

This goes back to that $650 million fund Michele wrote about here. It’s important to note that the non-profits that receive these funds must partner one or more districts and schools. It seems that Duncan and his team want to focus on efforts that can be researched and "scaled up." As to which non-profits exactly are eligible…that’s a question that the education secretary may answer when he releases guidance on how to apply for the fund.

3. Many school districts have cut transportation in an effort to keep the cuts away from the classroom. Can stimulus money be used to restore (backfill) transportation cuts?

That's a great question, and one that an advocate for local districts who I spoke to extensively about the stimulus outlined as an area of concern. It's my understanding that transportation is not an allowable use of the state stabilization funds because it isn't authorized under any of the federal education laws that are supposed to govern state stabilization dollars, which I wrote about here.

4. Has the department put out any more detailed information on how much money each state is getting, or how exactly the process will work?

The department now has its own "recovery" web page and just today we checked and found information detailing how much money each state will get from the stabilization fund. Title I and IDEA estimates, which have been up for awhile here. We’re still awaiting word on when official guidance will be available for states and school districts.

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Has there been any clarification as to whether or not federal money will be available for independent schools?

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